Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Distemper Outbreak in Long Beach Raises Threat to Island Foxes

courtesy of M. Baffa

April 15, 2021 the City of Long Beach issued a press release "Animal Care Services Reports Distemper Outbreak." The city reported that "38 raccoons and at least one skunk" had been found with the highly transmissible disease: canine distemper virus (CDV). 

This is the kind of situation that led to the serious decline of the Santa Catalina Island fox between 1998–2000. A wild raccoon infected with canine distemper virus was unknowingly transported to the island. Canine distemper virus killed 90% of the Catalina Island foxes within months and necessitated a multi-year effort to recover their population.

CDV can easily be passed from wildlife to pet dogs through direct contact or the sharing of food or water bowls. You can help protect the island fox and your pets. Vaccinate your pet dog against canine distemper virus. A vaccinated pet is protected and stops transmission from continuing. When there are high levels of CDV on the mainland, the threat to island foxes magnifies.

There are currently over 2,000 individual island foxes on Catalina Island. CDV is especially deadly to puppies and island fox pups. Island fox pups were born across the islands in April; they will be especially vulnerable for the next few months.

Friends of the Island Fox is raising funds to assist the Catalina Island Conservancy in vaccinating 300–350 island foxes on Catalina Island this summer. That is still only around 15% of the population. Vaccinating island foxes is the best chance for protection.

There are several months between now and when island foxes will be vaccinated. You can help protect island foxes from this heightened disease threat:

  • Vaccinate your dog against canine distemper
  • Do not feed wildlife, especially in harbor or port areas
  • Dispose of trash in secured bins so wildlife can not access it
  • If you have a boat, or know someone who does, always be aware of wildlife that may be hiding on board. If you detect a raccoon or other animal, return to port, DO NOT continue on to Catalina. Be wary of transporting any wildlife or feral animals to Catalina or any of the Channel Islands.
  • Consider donating to FIF - a $20 donation will vaccinate an island fox against canine distemper virus and rabies.

Island foxes need all of us to be vigilant and stop the spread of this current CDV outbreak.

Your donation will help vaccinate island foxes against deadly canine distemper virus.