From: Center for Biological Diversity
Published August 11, 2016 03:48 PM

Feds Say California's Endangered Channel Islands Foxes Are Recovered

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the successful recovery of three out of four unique subspecies ofisland fox on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands, removing them from the endangered species list. The agency also upgraded the protection status of the Santa Catalina Island fox — the fourth subspecies — from “endangered” to “threatened” to reflect its status improvement.

"Because they evolved separately on the islands for 16,000 years, these adorable little foxes are some of the only carnivores endemic to California,” said Jeff Miller with the Center. “They were on the brink of extinction just 12 years ago when they were protected under the Endangered Species Act. Now, thanks to successful reintroduction and recovery efforts, numbers of foxes are way up and threats have been reduced."

California's diminutive Channel Islands foxes have been impacted by a cascade of ecosystem changes caused by introduction of invasive species and pesticide use, as well as disease. In a classic case of unintended consequences, island fox numbers plummeted in the late 1990s largely due to a sudden invasion of nonnative golden eagles. Golden eagles, which eat the foxes, were able to colonize the islands because the now-banned chemical DDT wiped out the islands’ native bald eagles — which eat fish, not foxes. The introduction of nonnative pigs, deer and elk to the islands provided additional prey for the invading golden eagles, and livestock reduced fox habitat. Island foxes have also been very vulnerable to canine distemper transmitted by domestic dogs.

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Image Credits: U.S. Navy

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