California’s island foxes shock scientists

California’s island foxes shock scientists

An incredible new report has some big news on the future of this elusive species.

Scientists have made a tremendous new discovery regarding California’s Channel Island fox that provides great hope for the future of this endangered species that has been the subject of many conservation efforts by the U.S. government. The Channel fox, which lives on the four islands of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Catalina, has had three of its subspecies removed from the federal list of endangered species, a major victory for conservation activists.

The Channel fox population had declined on those islands greatly in the 1990s due to pigs that were brought to the islands, which in turn attracted golden eagles that also preyed on the foxes. But thanks to breeding foxes in captivity and removing natural predators, the federal government has been able to remove three subspecies from the endangered species list, according to a Department of the Interior statement.

The fox population on Santa Rosa, for example, had plummeted from 1,780 to just 15 individuals, and from 450 to 15 on San Miguel, due to local golden eagles picking them off. The foxes were close to going extinct in just a matter of years, but instead it turned into one of the biggest conservation success stories ever.

The fox resembles the mainland gray fox, and they live off lizards and mice on the islands after they arrived thousands of years ago. But humans’ arrival created problems for them, and the arrival of the eagles almost proved to be their doom.

“The Island Fox recovery is an incredible success story about the power of partnerships and the ability of collaborative conservation to correct course for a species on the brink of extinction,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who visited Channel Islands National Park in March with fourth graders participating in the Every Kid in a Park program to witness fox conservation efforts. “The Endangered Species Act is an effective tool to protect imperiled wildlife so future generations benefit from the same abundance and diversity of animals and plants we enjoy today. What happened in record time at Channel Islands National Park can serve as a model for partnership-driven conservation efforts across the country.”

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