Friday, September 24, 2021

Help Protect The Biodiversity of The Channel Islands

Friends of the Island Fox joins with Channel Islands National Park, The Nature Conservancy, Catalina Island Conservancy, and other conservation partners to encourage mindful visiting to California's Channel Islands.

Our Channel Islands are home to many unique species, like the island fox, which are found nowhere else in the world.

Channel Islands National Park says: "Preventing the re-introduction and establishment of nonnative species is vitally important to preserving the nearly 150 endemic plant and animal species of the islands. As a visitor, you play a valuable role in helping to protect that biodiversity."

The Nature Conservancy reminds everyone that many island plants and animals have been negatively impacted "by the introduction of harmful nonnative species, such as rats, Argentine ants, and weeds. This video provides simple steps that visitors can follow before they depart the mainland to protect the vulnerable island species."
Share this video with those you know who intend to visit the Channel Islands. Simple steps can save island foxes and other island species.

What is it like to visit:

Santa Cruz Island  

Santa Rosa Island

San Miguel Island

Santa Catalina Island

San Nicolas Island

Friday, September 17, 2021

Fox Foto Friday - Radio Collars For National Fox Day

photo courtesy of NPS

Happy National Fox Day!

Meet F269, she's a young island fox on Santa Rosa Island and she's been fitted with a radio collar funded by YOU!

 Not every radio collar is funded by a single large donation. Seven of the new radio collars currently being fitted on island foxes across the northern islands were paid for by multiple small donations. 

$20 here and $50 there quickly adds up to $220 to refurbish a radio collar or $350 to purchase a new radio collar.

Bringing small donations together Friends of the Island Fox has provided 263 radio collars for island foxes over the past 16 years.

Make a Difference for Island Foxes!

19 radio collars are being refurbished RIGHT NOW. 

FIF still needs to raise funds to pay for 11 of those radio collars. 

Every little bit will help reach that $2,420 goal for island foxes.

Why are radio collars important?

See an island fox released wearing its radio collar. 

Help Island Foxes this Fox Day!

DONATE through the secure link DONATE button on the upper right of the screen.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Radio Collars Going On Island Foxes!

photo courtesy of S. Baker, NPS

Meet M181! This young male island fox on Santa Rosa Island was fitted with a radio collar funded by YOU.

Channel Island National Park biologists have been fitting radio collars on individual foxes, conducting health checks, and counting island foxes throughout August.

These new and refurbished radio collars will provide information on island fox location and survival for the next 2–3 years.

Each radio collar has a signal at a specific individual frequency that is picked up by a radio receiver. The fox does not hear the collar's signal. 

Biologists can only hear the signal if they have a receiver tuned to the correct frequency and are within a specific proximity to the fox.

Radio collars are small and light weight so they do not bother the island fox. Each radio collar is fitted with a "two-finger fit" so that it is not too tight, yet not so loose that it might get caught on something.

Watch and Listen to the video below

WATCH as M181 is released back into the wild after his check-up and radio collar fitting.

LISTEN for the beeps from the receiver as the biologist checks the functioning of the radio collar.


Island Foxes on San Miguel Island will be getting their radio collars next.

Catalina Island foxes will be getting their radio collars and vaccinations soon. 

You can still help fund a refurbished radio collar $220 

for Catalina Island. 

Donate Today 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Island Foxes and Island Spotted Skunks Sharing Space On Santa Cruz Island

 (Thank you to our guest blogger Calypso N. Gagorik, MS in Biology, Northern Arizona University)

On the California Channel Islands, the island fox (Urocyon littoralis) has been hypothesized to compete with the smaller-bodied island spotted skunk (Spilogale gracilis amphiala). Recent declines in spotted skunk captures have led to concerns on population viability and what role the foxes may have played in the decline.

(Calypso worked in the field on Santa Cruz Island with fellow researcher Victor Zhang.

From 2018–2019, we GPS and VHF collared foxes and spotted skunks living on Santa Cruz Island to assess space use and deployed remote cameras to examine interactions between the two species at spotted skunk den sites. We also explored monitoring tools for spotted skunk detection with emphasis on remote camera placement and use of scent stations.

We found fox and spotted skunk seasonal home ranges were much larger than previously reported on Santa Cruz Island and spotted skunks moved around the landscape differently compared to foxes.  

Spotted skunks showed restricted movement, using less than 50% of their home range over shorter time periods such as a week or month. Foxed moved widely through the landscape covering more than 50% of their home range over the course of a week. During this time, we collected the first photo evidence that foxes may be disturbing resting sites of spotted skunks during the day. We also found that remote cameras placed on drainage bottoms may be more effective in detecting skunks. We discourage the use of scents at camera stations as foxes appear to be monopolizing the stations by repeated marking.

Our knowledge and understanding of spotted skunk ecology are still limited due to the many challenges of studying a cryptic species. We encourage further studies be conducted on spotted skunks, particularly focusing on interactions of foxes and spotted skunks at den sites.

Calypso Gagorik, MS Biology

Read the full thesis: Spacial Use Patterns And Management Recommendations For Two Endemic California Channel Island Mesocarnivores, The Island Spotted Skunk (Spilogale gracilis amphiala) and the Island Spotted Skunk (Urocyon littoralis)

Friends of the Island Fox provided financial assistance to this research project. 

The deadline for the FIF 2021 Research Grant is August 31, 2021 

More Island Fox Research

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Help A Fox Day - Protect Island Foxes

On this summer day you can help one rare fox survive.

What's in these vials? A vaccine that protects island foxes from canine distemper virus (CDV).

It takes $20 to vaccinate an island fox against CDV and rabies. Donors like you have helped Friends of the Island Fox purchase these vials of vaccine. We are committed to providing vaccinations for 300–350 island foxes on Catalina Island in 2021. 

But we still need to raise another $2,000!

Help FIF vaccinate island foxes!

CDV spreads rapidly through island fox populations and few survive. This virus caused the death of over 90% of the Catalina Island foxes in the late 1990s.

stowaway raccoon travels to Catalina Island

In 2021 - CDV is prevalent on the mainland in the Long Beach area, across from Catalina Island.  

CDV is carried by raccoons and other wildlife, as well as pet dogs. Make sure your dog is vaccinated against canine distemper virus and help island foxes stay safe too.


$20 protects an island fox for a year! 

Please donate through the secure DONATION button in the upper right of the page.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Friday, July 23, 2021

Fox Foto Friday - FIF Research Grant Deadline Approaching


$5000 in research grant funding is nothing to stick your tongue out at.

The deadline for Friends of the Island Fox's 2021 Research Grant is fast approaching.

Download FIF 2021 Research Grant Application

Applications will be accepted through August 31.


Join the innovative researchers discovering new information about island foxes and the Channel Islands.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Fox Foto Friday - Radio Collars Arrive!

Radio-tracking collars have arrived at Channel Islands National Park. These new and refurbished radio collars will be going on island foxes across San Miguel and Santa Rosa Islands over the next two months.

Why is there a pink ribbon? For speed and accuracy in the field

Collar identification numbers and radio frequency are originally noted on the collar band. When the bands are pre-punched with holes to fascilitate an adjustable fit on individual foxes, the numbers can become obscured. 

In the field the goal is to keep an island fox in-hand for as little time as possible. By putting the important numbers on the pink ribbon, the collar can be quickly grabbed from a bag, the ribbon taken off, the collar fitted, and the fox released. Then the collar numbers can be written on the data sheet for that individual island fox. 

 It is a brilliant and simple way to keep data accurate and release island foxes as quickly as possible.

Friends of the Island Fox just provided 15 refurbished and 15 new radio collars for the northern islands. 

But 8 of those new collars still need funding!

If you donate $350 for a new radio collar today, your collar will be going on an island fox in the next few weeks.

FIF also still needs to raise funds for 11 refurbished radio collars that will be finished in early September and ready to go on Catalina Island foxes. 

$220 refurbishes a used radio collar

$350 funds a new radio collar

Radio collars monitor island foxes in the wild, providing an early warning of disease or other threats to an entire island's population. 

When you donate to Friends of the Island Fox you can see where your donation goes

Vaccinations for Catalina Island foxes


Donor Update

Friday, July 09, 2021

Friends of the Island Fox Welcomes Mike Watling as President

Meet Mike Watling. On July 1, 2021 he became FIF's new President. 

Dear Fox Friends,

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the incoming president of Friends of the Island Fox.

I have been a member of the FIF advisory committee for the past five years and a member of the Board for the past year, helping to shape the future of FIF following the delisting of the island fox. My background is in the biomedical field where for the past 23 years I have been working on diagnostic test kits for human cancer. I am also trained as a California naturalist through the University of California, certified as a wildlife tracker through CyberTracker North America, and a volunteer naturalist with Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. (He's also a great wildlife photographer.)

I am very passionate about the wildlife of California and especially the wildlife that inhabits the Channel Islands. I am very fortunate to be able to serve an organization such as Friends of the Island Fox. 

I'm also married with two daughters: one a wildlife biologist in northern California and the other a pre-veterinary student at California State University Channel Islands.

The global pandemic and worsening drought in California, and throughout the west, have strengthened FIF's commitment to provide grant funding for researchers seeking more knowledge about fox diet, microbiome, range size, interactions with the island spotted skunk, as well as our continued support for radio collars and vaccines

Your generous contributions have made these things possible. The mission of FIF is to work together to protect the island fox and their island home and that focus will remain as strong going forward as it has in the past. Its Science, for Fox Sake!


Mike Watling

President, Friends of the Island Fox


Meet the entire FIF Board of Directors 2021

See Mike's posts on Identifying the Foxes of North America

Apply for the FIF 2021 Research Grant (now through Aug. 31)

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

You Can Help Island Foxes and Other Wildlife This Weekend

As we all head out for a holiday weekend, here's a quick reminder that things we use everyday can be dangerous to wildlife.

A sad story just came in from the US Navy regarding an island fox on San Clemente Island. "I'm honestly surprised we have not seen this before," says Melissa Booker, Navy Wildlife Biologist/Natural Resources Manager for San Clemente Island. "Discarded fishing line is notorious for impacting marine species and birds. Sadly, add foxes to the list."

"We lost this young female to entanglement this [past] weekend."

You can see how the fox caught her tiny foot in the snarl of discarded fishing line, which was out of sight in the bush. Struggling to free herself, only tightened the line. 

Especially during hot summer days, the window to save an entrapped animal is short.



This death could have been easily avoided. Fishing line should always be disposed of so that it doesn't endanger wildlife. Left on the ground or in the water, it remains a threat for years. 

If you have to cut fishing line because of a snarl, don't let it get away from you. If you see a snarl of fishing line, carefully pick it up. Dispose of fishing line into a closed trash container.  Be careful of fishing hooks, they are also dangerous to people and wildlife. Island fox injured by fishing hook - Sea lion caught in fishing debris

Fishing line isn't the only everyday item that can be dangerous to small animals. Another member of the Island Fox Conservation Recovery Group, research ecologist Brian Cypher of CSU-Stanislaus reports: "...we have documented 60+ kit foxes so far getting tangled and trapped in soccer nets or baseball batting cage nets" in California's Central Valley. A third of the trapped kit foxes didn't survive the entanglement.

Even COVID-19 face masks dropped on the ground can become a hazard for small animals. The ear-loops get hooked around small mammals, birds, and even fish.

But YOU can help all of these animals. These situations can easily be prevented.

  • Put old fishing line safely into trash containers
  • Drop game nets or lift them up off the ground to reduce entanglement
  • Cut the ear loops on face masks before disposing of them

Let's have a safe summer for people and wildlife!

Other things to be aware of if you are visiting the Channel Islands this summer

Growing list of animals recently involved with fishing line:

Pacific pond turtle (endangered species)


Friday, June 25, 2021

Visiting Island Foxes This Summer

The Channel Islands are open for visitors. Here are a few things to remember when visiting island foxes.

Keep your food safe! 

Island foxes evolved with humans. They know how to read your actions and they know where you put food. 

They are smart. 

Zippers, snaps, plastic latches, and Velcro are not fox proof. If food is not within your reach, it should be locked up in metal fox-proof lockers provided in campgrounds and visitor areas. 

Do you see the island fox that the man in the photo is not paying attention too? 

It unzipped the backpack and took a sandwich.

Watch this video taken this week:


Your food and its packaging are dangerous to island foxes. A young fox who eats a food wrapper might end up with intestinal blockage and die. Potato chip bags get stuck on small heads and have caused island fox fatalities. Use fox-safe trash bins on Catalina Island and remember to pack out all trash from Channel Island National Park and The Nature Conservancy islands.

Be a Fox Friend! 

Island foxes are small animals with big personalities. Be aware when island foxes are near:

  • watch
  • appreciate 
  • give them space
  • photograph

Fox Friends do not chase or try to touch island foxes. They stand still and let island foxes walk past them

Island foxes are wild animals who don't mind sharing spaces with humans. Let's help keep them that way. 

On islands with vehicles: Be aware of island foxes crossing roads. In 2020, the greatest single cause of island fox death was being hit by a car. 

Visit island foxes and enjoy sharing the Channel Islands with a charismatic wild animal. 

Island foxes evolved with Native peoples in a relationship of mutual respect. Let's protect the island fox, its island home, and its special relationship with people. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Foxes For Foxes

The Fort Collins, CO Foxes baseball team has been raising awareness about island foxes since 2012.

When the team takes to the field on June 25, 2021 against the Rough Riders, as part of the Mountain Collegiate Baseball League, $1 from every ticket sold will be donated to Friends of the Island Fox to support island fox conservation.

There will be a Free Give-Away - Download the Flyer

Go Foxes! 

Have a great season and let's vaccinate some island foxes!

$20 vaccinates an island fox against deadly canine distemper virus and rabies.

Island foxes are good runners. They could run the bases faster than a human, but they might bite the baseball. 

Your club or organization can help island foxes too! 

Contact Pat Meyer at 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Fox Foto Friday - Island Fox Science in Progress

What are these? Look closely. These are swabs from island fox ears and backsides being processed in the lab at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington D.C.

This is island fox science in progress! FIF 2020 Research Grant recipient Dr. Allie DeCandia updated us on her work investigating the microbiome of island foxes.

"Between July and December 2020, collaborators across all six Channel Islands collected ear canal swabs, anal swabs, and blood samples from 50–60 foxes per subspecies. After collection in the field, these samples were shipped to Princeton University for temporary storage until all samples arrived on the east coast." In March, DeCandia moved the samples to her lab at the Smithsonian. She spent April and May inventorying samples.

"My collaborators did a fantastic job sampling foxes!" DeCandia says. "In total, I inventoried 851 swabs over the course of 23 hyper-focused laboratory hours (which were thankfully not consecutive)."

Processing the samples must be meticulous because she is investigating DNA.

"I sterilized scissors (bleach dunk / water dunk / superheat in a Bacinerator), snipped off the swab tip, placed the swab tip in a sterile microcentrifuge tube, recorded metadata written on the original swab container, and repeated the process for each swab collected."

The coordinating 300+ blood samples are now being inventoried and the individual island fox DNA extracted. DeCandia will spend the summer extracting microbial DNA from the swabs and preparing samples for "microbiome sequencing." Over the fall/winter, she'll be deep in analyzing the data.

"I am ecstatic to be working with so many amazing researchers in the field and in the lab," DeCandia says, "and can't wait to analyze this impressive dataset in the months ahead!"

FIF grant funds are processing the DNA extraction. 

Your donations support this cutting edge research.

If an island fox is an environment for microbes, what was lost when island fox populations declined to just a few individuals? How is an entire species' health impacted if they recover from near extinction, but have lost some of the microbial biodiversity that protected them from bacteria infection or supported healthy digestion? 

Island fox microbiome investigation will help us understand island fox health and may have implications for other endangered species.

Your donations supporting research are an investment in the island fox's long-term survival.

Friends of the Island Fox is taking applications

through August 31 for our 

2021 Research Grant  (see application)

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

2021 Island Fox Status Update

All island fox populations are healthy and stable, but biosecurity and the potential of deepening drought raises concerns.

That is the update from the Island Fox Conservation Working Group meeting held May 18, 2021, which reports on the status of island foxes across the islands. The following information is taken from FIF notes taken at the meeting. Population numbers reported here are official estimates from each land manager as calculated from the 2020 counting period. (How are island foxes counted)

Overview: COVID-19 restrictions impacted human travel to the islands, but all islands were able to implement protocols to keep biologists and island foxes safe. Annual counting was delayed on some islands and research was halted temporarily, but all efforts were able to resume.

Following a year of normal rainfall in 2019, 2020's lower rainfall levels resulted in island fox populations on San Miguel, Santa Cruz, and Santa Catalina Islands adjusting downward within expected normal levels. Reduced resources, resulted in fewer pups being born, but adult survivorship remained high and the estimated number of foxes per square kilometer, or fox density, remained high (Miguel 7.4 foxes per km squared, Cruz 9.4, and Catalina 9.3). 

The major threats to island foxes in 2021 are:

  • biosecurity: the threat of introduced viruses, disease, or nonnative animal species
  • climate change impacts: increasing regional temperatures, decreasing rainfall, and prolonged drought, which reduces food resources, increases wildfire threats, and promotes parasites
  • parasites: ticks, fleas, tick-borne diseases and intestinal parasites on some islands

How is Friends of the Island Fox helping Island Foxes? -video update

Greatest Concern

Santa Catalina Island foxes continue to maintain a stable population and fox density is high. However, an outbreak of canine distemper virus is currently impacting wild raccoons on the adjacent mainland. In 2020, a raccoon roamed Catalina's interior for several weeks until it was caught. The Catalina Island Conservancy reminded everyone that if distemper arrives on the island again, the high fox density could facilitate the rapid transmission of this fatal virus. FIF is currently raising funding to support the vaccination of 300–350 island foxes on Catalina Island. This is vital to protecting a core population and reducing opportunities for the virus to spread.

 FIF help support testing for disease antibodies in island foxes in 2020. This effort revealed an increasing prevalence of Adenovirus and Coronavirus on Catalina, fortunately neither virus appears to be causing mortalities. The increase, however, reminded everyone of how canine distemper virus would also spread if foxes were not vaccinated.

Tick below island fox eye
Though no tick-borne disease has yet been found among Catalina Island foxes, 48% have evidence of ticks and fleas. Studying tick-borne illness continues to be important for foxes and people. 

Interactions with people are greatest on Catalina and 75% of island fox deaths on this island were related to people–car strikes, attacks by pet dogs, etc. If drought conditions persist, parasites are expected to increase and foxes may be more attracted to human-inhabited areas.


San Miguel Island foxes have returned to stability, but they are a naturally small population. Renewed drought could cause declines as it did from 2015–2018. Research continues to search for the vector species that is being consumed by island foxes and leads to fatalities from an intestinal parasite. Channel Islands National Park continues to watch this population closely. (In the graph below the Green line shows even years, the population estimate in 2019 was 453.)


The two other smaller islands San Nicolas and San Clemente remain stable. In fact, San Clemente experienced a localized rain event that occurred at the perfect time in spring 2020. Plant life and deermice thrived and the island fox population boomed (see Blue line in graph below). Human impacts–car strike, entrapment in man-made structures, toxic waste, and improperly deployed rodenticide remain the greatest threat to these island foxes.

Santa Cruz Island foxes remain close to carrying capacity for their habitat and naturally adjusted downward in a lower rain year. Adult foxes had a 93.1% probablity of surviving in 2020. Study of tick-borne disease continues. Biosecurity is a concern for this second most visited island. The Nature Conservancy is analyzing boater activity around the island and determining the most critical areas to deploy biosecurity cameras to watch for nonnative species making their way onto the island. This may be important technology looking forward.


Santa Rosa Island foxes
are believed to have increased in 2020 and have yet to reach a carrying capacity plateau. (Pink line in graph above.) The estimated population now exceeds all other islands and the density is estimated at 11.3 foxes per km squared. The high number of foxes on this island may increase survival challenges for island foxes as drought impacts heighten. Another thought is that prior range-size data may no longer accurately represent this island. The last time data on range size was studied on Santa Rosa was 2009–10, when fox density was much lower. Friends of the Island Fox would like to support a GPS/telemetry collar investigation of island fox range size on Santa Rosa Island to update the understanding of range size in a dense population. This data is vital to accurate population estimates and understanding of how disease might move through this population.

*Note graphs show population estimates from even years. Population graphs with data from all years show greater fluctuation. 2019 was a record high population year for Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands, these two populations adjusted downward in 2020. 

Researchers also gave updates on island fox diet and microbiome investigations. FIF will report on this in the coming weeks.


Monday, May 24, 2021

2021 Update For FIF Donors

Tuesday May 18, 2021 Friends of the Island Fox Board members participated in the annual Island Fox Conservation Working Group meeting (via a virtual space hosted by the Santa Barbara Zoo).

We thought we'd try something new and share the FIF Update with you so you could see exactly where your donations have gone this past fiscal year and where we are focusing our efforts right now.


We can't say it enough "Radio collars, radio collars, radio collars!" This season's radio collars and vaccinations will be shipping out in the next few weeks, along with the bill. 

Your donations help fund these vital efforts to protect island foxes.

Biologists, researchers and pathologists from across the Channel Islands also reported on island fox status and health. 

The news is good and FIF will post a summary of the Working Group Meeting next week.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Fox Foto Friday - 250 Radio Collars To Date

Mike Watling, Chair of FIF's Board of Directors, recently took this photo of an island fox wearing a radio-tracking collar just at dusk on Santa Rosa Island. 

Did you help fund this radio collar?

Since 2005, Friends of the Island Fox has been committed to funding radio-tracking collars for island foxes. In 2006, FIF donors funded 10 radio collars for island foxes being released from captive breeding back into the wild. See video of captive-born island foxes being released in 2006.

In 2021, donors like you funded our 250th radio collar. This landmark collar will go on an island fox on Catalina Island this summer. 

Today island foxes live their lives running free in the wild. Individuals with radio collars help alert biologists to threats for the entire island population. Radio collars also monitor specific foxes recovering from health challenges or injury.

Meet two island foxes with radio collars: F257 and Vixen

FIF is committed to raising funds for an additional:

  • 15 new radio collars at $350 each
  • 19 refurbished radio collars at $220 each

These radio collars and vaccinations are needed for summer 2021. With your help island foxes will continue to thrive in the wild long into the future.