Friday, February 23, 2024

Injured Island Fox Pup Gets Second Chance

 You can help this young island fox

Friends of the Island Fox is raising funds to pay for her orthopedic surgery

During the annual fall 2023 counting and island fox health checks on San Nicolas Island, biologists discovered this female pup with a recently injured right hind leg. The bones just above her foot, the metatarsal bones, had been fractured and the wound was open.

The injury was too severe for treatment on the remote Navy island. According to our friends with the U.S. Navy and the Santa Barbara Zoo: "The cause of the injury could not be determined but her chance for survival without intervention was minimal due [to] the risk of infection and septicemia posed by the open fracture. Releasing her without treatment with such an injury was determined to be both inhumane and life threatening."

island fox in the wild on Santa Cruz Island

Removing an island fox from the island where it lives is a big decision. Having evolved in isolation on their specific islands, once an island fox leaves an island it can not return. The biosecurity risk of introducing disease from the mainland to the wild population is too great.

The young fox was just old enough to be dispersing from her parents. With treatment and several months of observed convalescence, she had a good chance for full recovery. The cost of treatment, however, was being removed from the wild for the rest of her life.


The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) gave special authorization to transport the state-protected species off of the island and off of the Navy's federal lands into state jurisdiction. She was flown off of San Nicolas Island and transferred to the Santa Barbara Zoo, which has "extensive experience in caring for orphaned and injured island foxes." A pair of brother San Clemente Island foxes who were abandoned by their parents during a drought year, currently live at the Santa Barbara Zoo. (Lewis and Clark)

In consultation with Dr. Steve Klause, a veterinary orthopedic surgeon, the Santa Barbara Zoo veterinary team initiated a conservative treatment plan. While the little fox responded well, the fracture did not initially heal as hoped. 

The Zoo team reached out to Friends of the Island Fox. The little female island fox needed special orthopedic surgical repair for internal fixation of the fracture. Could we help with some of the unexpected costs? 

FIF determined to raise the $1,900 needed.

On December 16, 2023, the little fox had her surgery and Dr. Julie Barnes Vice-President of Animal Care and Health tells us, she is doing well. The island fox still has several months of recuperation before she is fully healed. The Santa Barbara Zoo says "Once fully recovered, the fox will be transferred to a permanent home ... at an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited facility where she will serve as an ambassador for the species - the first known San Nicolas Island fox to do so!"

Protecting island foxes is a community effort and saving this individual island fox is no different. People from the U.S. Navy, Santa Barbara Zoo, specialist veterinarians, and FIF are all investing in the future of this island fox.

You can HELP Too! 

Join our list of donors supporting this island fox

  • Recycling for Island Foxes and the Planet: $200
  • school children in Thousand Oaks, CA: $300+
  • FIF Instagram followers: $125
  • FIF "X" followers, including in Japan: $360
  • FIF returning donors: $1,190