Meet the Vixen from Two Harbors!

81210 at the Foxpital in 2017
This lovely girl from Catalina Island has a tale to tell of wild creatures aided by technology. 

She initially wore a radio collar to protect all of Catalina's population, but later her collar helped save her life.

During annual island-wide counting in 2015, this young female fox was caught for the first time. She was a yearling and received her ID microchip with the number 81210. Catalina Island Conservancy Wildlife Biologist Lara Brenner says "She was a big, healthy female weighing nearly 6 pounds, which is a lot for an island fox!" (Most island foxes weigh 2.5–4 pounds, but Catalina Island foxes are the heaviest with weights to 6 pounds.)

Vixen was a young robust fox; the perfect candidate to wear a radio collar. As a sentinel fox, 81210 was not vaccinated against disease. If something happened to her, the radio collar would alert biologists to take action to protect other foxes across the island.

Two Harbors, Catalina Island, Vixen's home territory
Campground on the hillside above Two Harbors.
Following her release, Vixen's radio collar monitored her movements on the hillsides above Two Harbors, which Brenner describes as "a small boating community on the island's isthmus." Vixen's movements demonstrated a typical trait of island foxes, she did not cross the narrow bridge of land that connects the main  part of the island to the small northern tip. Though 81210 wasn't captured in 2016, her radio collar told biologists she was still active in her Two Harbors territory. She probably had her first litter of pups during this time.

In 2017, Vixen 81210 was captured again. Because of her identifying microchip and radio collar, biologists were able to compare Vixen's health status to her last health check two years earlier. Brenner says "She had lost a significant amount of weight." In addition, biologists noted a "strange, lemon-sized mass on her abdomen. ...[They] wondered if the mass was impeding her movement" and impairing her ability to find food.

Vixen under went surgery at the Catalina Foxpital to remove the mass. "The operation was a complete success!" Brenner says. "After a few days recuperating in the clinic, 81210 was released back at her home site with a brand new radio collar." Now her radio collar allowed her to recover in the wild while being monitored.

In 2018, four-year-old Vixen was captured and given a health check again. "The surgical scar had healed well," says Brenner, "... she had regained her lost weight - and then some!" 

In this year's counting, 81210 was captured again. On November 12, 2019,  Brenner and her team gave the spunky Vixen a health check and discovered that two years after her surgery the benign tumor has returned. Because 81210 is now a middle-aged island fox, it was determined she would not be put through the impacts of surgery again. Other than the return of the fatty tumor, she appears healthy.

The Vixen of Two Harbors continues to patrol her hillside territory with her radio collar. Brenner says "We will continue to monitor her progress throughout the years to understand how this unusual pathology affects Catalina Island foxes."

Radio-tracking collars are vital to protecting individual island foxes and their island populations. The Vixen of Two Harbors thanks you for your support.