Saturday, December 16, 2023

Fox Foto Friday - Radio Collars on San Miguel Island Foxes

 Look who's getting radio tracking collars!

Island foxes born on San Miguel Island in April of 2023 are now adults and large enough to wear radio collars. Three were fitted with radio collars this week. The mask helps the island fox remain calm while the collar is being fitted.

Channel Island National Park biologists report this year's young adults are looking very healthy.

Watch them for yourself as they are released with their new radio collars.


Your donations to Friends of the Island Fox 

help to fund radio collars, vaccinations, and research 

into island fox health and behavior

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Date With A Fox - Tim Coonan, Biologist

 Join Friends of the Island Fox for a Virtual Event !

"Date with a Fox" 

with guest Tim Coonan

Tuesday, December 5 

6:30 - 7:30 pm Pacific Time on Zoom

Tim Coonan is the retired Senior Biologist for Channel Islands National Park. He documented the mysterious decline of island foxes across the northern Channel Islands and uncovered that golden eagles had colonized the islands and were unexpectedly preying on island foxes. 

How were the decisions made to bring island foxes into captive breeding? What steps had to be taken to restore the ecosystem so that island foxes could return into the wild and recover their populations? Tim Coonan was there when only 15 individual island foxes remained on San Miguel Island and four populations were listed as Endangered Species. 

He released the last captive island foxes back into the wild and is the co-author of "Decline and Recovery of the Island Fox." 

Join FIF for an intimate conversation with Tim Coonan and a chance to ask your questions about island foxes.


Monday, November 13, 2023

She's Back! F257 - an Island Fox with a Story

F257 was true to form in 2023. She was captured during island-wide counting on Santa Rosa Island for the fifth year in a row!

This charismatic female island fox was first captured and radio-collared in the fall of 2019 as a pup of that year. She was collared in the territory where she was born and there were thoughts she might provide additional data on how far female offspring disperse from their parents' territory.


She didn't go anywhere. F257 remained in the coastal plain of her childhood. She has been captured each year, not only in the same area, but in exactly the same location. A highly unusual occurrence.


Health checks in 2020, 2021, and 2022 found F257 healthy even during years of drought. She even was videoed after receiving her new radio collar. But physical evidence revealed that this healthy female island fox had not become a mother. Island foxes typically have pups in their second year, but they can breed before they are a year old if resources are available. During the 2021–22 drought years, most female island foxes did not breed.

This year F257 approached breeding season as a middle-aged fox–4 years old.

The rainy winter suggested a boom of resources for island foxes. We all waited to see what would happen with F257.

When she was captured in September, F257 showed evidence of nursing pups. 

Island fox females who have NOT been nursing have white bellies.

Females that have been nursing have pink bellies.

F257 has added her genes to the population of island foxes on Santa Rosa Island. We hope she continues to thrive and tell her story.

More on island fox reproduction.

Monday, November 06, 2023

FIF 2023 Research Grant to Help Count Island Spotted Skunks

Friends of the Island Fox received a record number of grant applications this year. Funds were awarded to two projects. Today we highlight:

Desirae Thomaier a masters student in Biological Sciences at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. 


Island foxes share their habitat with island spotted skunks on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands. When island fox numbers declined due to golden eagles, island spotted skunk numbers increased dramatically. As island fox populations recovered, skunk numbers appeared to decline. 

While some researchers have attempted to follow island spotted skunks with radio-tracking collars, the spotted skunks small size and seasonal weight fluctuations make it difficult to effectively use radio collars. Prior studies recommended wildlife field cameras as a way to potentially quantify the number of island spotted skunks on each island.

Thomaier's project–Occupancy modeling of Island Spotted Skunks on Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands–will deploy 60 field cameras across each island for a full year.

Hopefully, this effort will provide a better accounting of island spotted skunks numbers and how they are "responding to very high fox abundance."

Island spotted skunks are nocturnal. Interactions between island foxes and island spotted skunks under the cover of darkness. Thomaier's cameras may also uncover additional information about the interactions between these two island carnivores.

The series of three photos below were taken over the course of 8 minutes.

One spotted skunk followed less than a minute later by an island fox.

Followed 7 minutes later by two island spotted skunks.

One skunk is in the upper left corner with the second skunk right on its heels. (photos courtesy of Channel Islands National Park)

What is the story here? We really don't know. Hopefully, Thomaier's research project will help provide a more accurate count of island spotted skunk populations and shine a light on the complicated relationship between these two island predators.

Island spotted skunks may deserve separate species status. FIF Research Grant 2022 recipient Julia Owen will be presenting at the California Island Symposium this week in Ventura.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023


Friends of the Island Fox will be at the 

P-22 Day Festival 

Sunday October 22 at Griffith Park

Come by our booth and see if you can detect what island foxes have been eating.


We'll also be unveiling our new Island Fox Science shirt -

It's Science, for Fox Sake!

- to raise funds for island fox scientific research. 

Come out to celebrate the life of mountain lion P-22 and support California wildlife at the P-22 Day Festival.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Island Foxes Are Getting New Radio Collars


Six new radio collars funded by Friends of the Island Fox will arrive on Catalina Island next week!

Across the Channel Islands, island foxes are receiving annual health checks and new radio-tracking collars.


Watch the video below of M173. He is a four-year-old male on Santa Rosa Island and his radio collar was replaced last week during his health check.

He is not tranquilized. The green hood covers his eyes and keeps his mouth closed. This keeps him calm and enables biologists to quickly complete a health check, vaccinate the fox against canine distemper and rabies, and for some island foxes, deploy a new or refurbished radio collar.

This radio collar will send signals to biologists for the next 2–3 years. The signal will help locate M173 and the type of signal informs the biologist if he is moving around normally or if something might have happened to him. In the case of a mortality signal, biologists can follow the signal to find the island fox's body and determine what happened. If there is a threat to other island foxes, action can be taken quickly.

For the 2023 health check season Friends of the Island Fox has supplied:

Radio collars offer the best way to monitor island fox survival 

in the wild. 

Your donations make it all possible.

Friday, August 04, 2023

FIF Research Grant Application Deadline Approaching


Are island spotted skunks genetically different enough from mainland spotted skunks to warrant species status? FIF 2022 Research Grant recipient Julia Owen is probing the island spotted skunk genome.


Are island foxes crossing into the territory of other island foxes to access beach foods on Santa Rosa Island? FIF 2021 Research Grant recipient Katie Elder and recipient Juliann Schamel continue to investigate island fox territory size and diet. 

Are you investigating island foxes, prey species, Channel Island ecosystem dynamics, public education and attitudes toward island fox conservation, or any topic relating to island fox survival and a healthy island ecosystem?

Apply for FIF's 2023 Island Fox Research Grant

Download Application

Grants will be considered for up to $7,000

Application Deadline August 28 

Friday, July 21, 2023

Radio Collars and Vaccines Arrive for Island Foxes

Island fox populations are stable across the Channel Islands, but recovery is only as sustainable as our participation in protecting them from introduced threats.

Radio Monitoring

Radio-tracking collars remain the best technology for monitoring island fox survival. These collars allow biologists to determine from a distance that an island fox is alive and active in its habitat. If something happens to a fox and it stops moving for 6 hrs, the radio collar signal changes, alerting biologists that something has happened to that individual island fox. Quick response to the death of a collared fox allows new diseases or other threats to be discovered early–protecting the rest of the uncollared population. 

New and refurbished radio collars have just arrived.

  • 5 new and 15 refurbished radio collars for Santa Cruz Island
  • 24 refurbished radio collars for Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands

44 radio collars will be fitted on island foxes over the next few months. They were funded through:


Vaccinations Against Distemper and Rabies

Despite vaccine price increases, you helped FIF raise the $13,571 needed to vaccinate 650 island foxes in 2023.

Vaccine for rabies and canine distemper has gone out to Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Catalina Islands. On the three northern islands, 100 foxes will be vaccinated during health checks, while 350 island foxes will be vaccinated on Catalina. Why are more foxes vaccinated on Catalina?

It takes a community to vaccinate island foxes:

Every donation makes a difference for island fox survival.


Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Island Fox Status Update 2023

Island fox populations are healthy, but the differences between each island subspecies are becoming more apparent. 


The following is the update from across the Channel Islands as compiled from notes by Friends of the Island Fox at the 25th Annual Island Fox Working Group Meeting held May 18, 2023 at the Santa Barbara Zoo (hybrid meeting).

Reported population numbers are official estimates from each land manager as calculated during the 2022 counting period. (How are island foxes counted)

Overview: Island foxes appeared healthy across the islands, but while some populations increased toward near record highs, others declined. Increasingly, island fox populations are revealing different health risks, climate impacts, and island specific challenges.

Microbiome research. Each island ecosystem effects the natural bacteria of its island fox population. Three islands have ear mites: Nicolas, Clemente, and Catalina. Both Clemente and Catalina Island foxes have reduced bacterial biodiversity, but only Catalina Island foxes develop chronic inflammation in conjunction with out of balance bacteria and develop cancer if ear mites are not treated. More about microbiome research

Island fox life span may vary by island. The age of many island foxes is documented because most individuals are microchipped. In 2022, two island foxes on San Miguel Island died naturally of old age at 11 and 12 years old. At the same time, the oldest island fox captured on San Nicolas Island was 9. Santa Rosa currently has the greatest density of island foxes and collared foxes that died during the year were 2–7 years old. Island fox life span may be influenced by multiple variables. Determining age from tooth cementum

Island size influences fox population limits. Smaller islands, like San Miguel and San Nicolas can only support 300–450 island foxes. When drought, catastrophic heatwaves, or other survival challenges occur, these smaller populations are more vulnerable to loss. 

The leading threats to island foxes in 2023 are:

  • biosecurity: the threat of introduced viruses, disease, and/or non-native animals
  • reduced funding for monitoring
  • climate change: increasing regional temperatures and decreasing annual rainfall, which reduce resources, increase wildfire, and promote greater parasite numbers


Greatest Concern: While other island fox populations remained stable or even increased, San Clemente Island foxes declined by an estimated 30%, without a known cause. Individual island foxes on San Clemente appear healthy and pups were documented in numbers similar to other islands. This decline is being investigated; it's a strong reminder that these island populations are vulnerable and can be effected quickly by a negative force. 

Disease threats remain high for all island foxes. As populations reach carrying capacity and island foxes live closer together, it becomes easier for viruses to pass from fox-to-fox. Friends of the Island Fox is responding to this increased concern by supporting canine distemper and rabies vaccinations across four islands in 2023.

You can help protect island foxes by being a biosecurity guardian; watch the video


Smaller Islands

The two smallest islands San Miguel and San Nicolas remain stable, but you can see in the graph above that the trend was completely different on San Clemente Island.

San Miguel Island (lime green line) - This population continues to increase from a drought impact low in 2018. In 2022, an individual island fox on San Miguel had an 82% chance of surviving the year, the highest survival rate reported across the islands for the year. 

San Nicolas Island (pink line) - Easing drought also benefited San Nicolas Island foxes and their individual health improved. However, island foxes have begun congregating in areas where people offer food. As a result Adenovirus (dog flu) and Parvovirus are spreading and increasing across the island; fortunately, no fatalities have been attributed to the diseases. Being hit by a car remains the greatest threat to these island foxes. FIF is working with the Navy on an education program to reduce this threat.

San Clemente Island (blue line) - The population dropped lower than it has been since 2008. Car strike is especially frequent on this island–42 fatalities in 2022–with the majority being young foxes. This, however, doesn't account for the overall decline. Researchers are evaluating the survival rate for pups and other potential causes.

Larger Islands

The current population sizes of the larger islands have helped provide greater stability and resilience against climate change impacts. All of the island fox populations on the larger islands are at or near documented population highs.

Santa Catalina Island (red line) - Catalina Island foxes benefited from easing drought; their general health improved and viruses in the population declined. Currently, human activity poses the greatest threat. Not only are island foxes hit by cars, they get trapped in man-made structures and are killed by pet dogs. Catalina has the greatest threat of canine distemper or rabies being introduced. FIF funded vaccinations for 350 island foxes on this island and health testing.

Santa Rosa Island (pink line with squares) - This island currently has the greatest known island fox density, with 12.4 foxes per sq km. The calculated rate for an individual to survive the year declined to 75%, but the population remained unchanged. While several collared foxes aged 2–7 died during the year, the cause of death remains unknown because of a lack of staffing in the National Park to recover the bodies for testing. The two GPS radio collar studies of island fox territory supported by Friends of the Island Fox continue. Data should be available later this summer.

Santa Cruz Island (black line) - Santa Cruz Island has the largest island fox population, but increasing competition has edged down the chance of an individual island fox surviving through the year to 55%. Still, island foxes appear healthy. Ten sentinel foxes died during the winter, but their bodies were not recovered for testing due to stormy weather. 

Across the Channel Islands, island foxes are stable and healthy because people like you are investing in their future. Your donations to Friends of the Island Fox fund vaccinations, radio collars for monitoring, health efforts, education, and important research.

Friday, June 09, 2023

Island Fox Ambassadors Making a Difference

Island Fox Ambassadors help island foxes by:

  • educating others about island foxes
  • directly supporting island fox conservation in some way
  • or improving the island fox's habitat

Magic Wands for Foxes

Benjamin and Larissa in Georgia wanted to help island foxes. They handmade these magic wands and sold them. Their hard work and creative idea help fund the refurbishing of a radio collar that will be going on an island fox this summer.

Cans for Vaccinations

Kris in California became passionate about island foxes when her daughter worked as a biologist on the Channel Islands. She watched island foxes being vaccinated against canine distemper virus and rabies and understood how vital this effort is to island fox survival. 

Kris saw aluminum cans and plastic bottles being discarded as trash  and decided to help island foxes. She's created a neighborhood recycling effort and over the past three months has collect $300 worth of recyclables to vaccinate 15 island foxes.

Island Fox Ambassadors have one thing in common: a desire to help island foxes!

Age is not a requirement - Ambassadors range in age from children to foxy ladies

Ambassadors can be individuals, classes, schools, groups, or even a baseball team.

 You can be an Island Fox Amabassador, too. 

Other Island Fox Ambassadors

Friday, June 02, 2023

Supporting Island Fox Health Across the Channel Islands

 Every donation makes a difference!

FIF presents support for island fox disease testing

At the Island Fox Conservation Working Meeting on May 20th, 

FIF not only celebrated 


...your donations went to work!

FIF President Mike Watling presented Makenzie Henk, Wildlife Conservation Manager for the Catalina Island Conservancy with $4,100 to support testing island foxes for virus exposure. Catalina Island foxes face the greatest threat from introduced disease. Blood samples from Catalina Island foxes are tested for five viruses. More about this testing and health checks. Interview with Henk and CIC thanks Friends of the Island Fox.

Friends of the Island Fox also funded $4,540 in canine distemper and rabies vaccine to protect island foxes within Channel Islands National Park on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and the southern tip of Santa Cruz Island. Canine distemper virus is lethal to island foxes and vaccination protects them for almost a year. 

Island foxes across the Channel Islands will be receiving vaccinations as population counting and health checks take place between June and early December. Vaccine will be going out to other islands soon. 

Your donations will help FIF provide 

nearly $13,000 worth of vaccine in the next few months

Friday, May 12, 2023

What Questions Do You Have For Island Fox Experts?

Next week 

the Island Fox Conservation Working Group 

meets for its 

25th Annual Meeting !

It's a time to celebrate the biologists, land managers, researchers, technicians, veterinarians, ecologists, government agencies, academic institutions, and conservation organizations that all came together to formulate a plan and take action to save island foxes from extinction and shepherd their recovery. 

It is also a time to ask questions of the folks that were on the ground trying to discern why island foxes were disappearing on the northern islands in the late 1990s.

And how was it discovered that canine distemper virus was killing island foxes on Catalina Island in the south?

How were the Catalina Island foxes saved from high levels of cancer?

What do we still need to find out about island foxes to protect them into the future?

Friends of the Island Fox 

is looking for your questions

Thursday May 18, we'll be posing your questions to the people of the Island Fox Working Group and videoing their answers.

Send your questions to