California Island Fox Makes Incredible Recovery After Comprehensive Conservation Program

Island fox surrounded by vegetation in CaliforniaWith climate change and other environmental crises, it is hard to often find positive environmental stories but here it is.  The National Park Service has announced that various conservation and legal measures have result in bringing back the beautiful Island fox from the brink of extinction.  The recovery of the Island Fox is an example of how it is possible for humans to repair some of the damage that we do and actually save animals from extinction.

I have long loved foxes and often look for them on my hikes. I have found them in the farthest corners of the Earth.  I recently saw a gorgeous fox in the Denali National Forest in Alaska that causally walked by a line of hikers on a trail.  However, the California Island Fox just may be the cutest of all foxes.  In the late 1990s , the four subspecies had plunged to fewer than 200 animals. Now they have come back to nearly 6,000 as of 2015, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service .

The foxes were saved with a combination of a captive breeding of the animals, removal of feral pigs from the islands and the reduction of the influx of golden eagles from the mainland that had become an invasive predator.  They were also vaccinated against canine distemper and hunting was barred.

The Catalina Island fox remains listed as threatened and the de-listed subspecies are safely on park land away from hunters.

We often find much to criticize in our government but this is real and sensational victory for all of us.

15 thoughts on “California Island Fox Makes Incredible Recovery After Comprehensive Conservation Program

  1. Ahhhh, it’s so cute!

    I’ve been to Catalina many times over the years, and never saw a single fox. It’s been over 10 years since I last visited. It would be lovely to see an island fox in the wild one day. I’m glad they saved this predator, because the extinction of a predator on a closed ecosystem like that could have consequences such as rodent over population. I wonder if they ever figured out what was causing the tumors in the foxes.

  2. Let’s see. They got rid of golden eagles, feral pigs and stopped hunting. You get rid of all the predators and anything will thrive.

  3. A film recommendation: “The Fox and the Child” – I have showed it to my niece and nephews to teach them that wild is wild – let them be.

  4. “Let’s see. They got rid of golden eagles, feral pigs and stopped hunting. You get rid of all the predators and anything will thrive.”

    The only apathetic predator that needs ridding of is collective humanity. Our rape of resources and impositions on the environment undermine life everywhere including ourselves.

    When’s the last time you heard a negative story concerning wildlife that wasn’t in some way caused by human greed.

  5. Catalina Island is a great place to spend some time. Much of the island was owned by the Wrigley family. The Cubs trained there from the 1920’s-50’s. The family donated their holdings and much of the island is now a conservancy. There are few cars allowed so you rent golf carts to get around the island. We took a ferry from Long Beach and spent a great day. We will spend a week out there some time soon. Although this is a nice story of of redemption for the fox, Catalina Island didn’t work out so well for Natalie Wood.

  6. “When’s the last time you heard a negative story concerning wildlife that wasn’t in some way caused by human greed.”

    Human greed is the catalyst for many good and bad results. It is part of human nature and it is why government is necessary. While saving the Island Fox is a good result, we would be wise to focus our attention on the restoration of our nearly extinct constitutional republic. And the first place to start is eliminating the predators within government that are motivated by their greedy human nature.

  7. @Olly

    re ” While saving the Island Fox is a good result, we would be wise to focus our attention on the restoration of our nearly extinct constitutional republic. And the first place to start is eliminating the predators within government that are motivated by their greedy human nature.”

    Spot on! We can start with the poster child of depravity: Debbie Wasserman Schultz

  8. There’s lots of good “environmental” news if you are open to finding it. The FAA issued a report about the sharp rise in wildlife strikes to aircraft a couple of years ago. It is due to a combination of expanding wildlife populations and increased aircraft traffic. But the increase in numbers for many species of birds (and deer) are stunning.

    http://wildlife.faa.gov/downloads/Wildlife-Strike-Report-1990-2013-USDA-FAA.pdf

    “Many populations of large bird and mammal species commonly involved in strikes have increased markedly in the last few decades and adapted to living in urban environments, including airports. For example, the resident (non-migratory) Canada goose population in the USA and Canada increased from about 0.5 million to 3.8 million from 1980 to 2013 (Dolbeer et al. 2014, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2013). During the same time period, the North American snow goose population increased from about 2.1 million to 6.6 million birds (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2013). Other large-bird species that have shown significant population increases from 1980 to 2012 include bald eagles (6.4 percent annual rate of increase), wild turkeys (9.5 percent), turkey vultures (2.7 percent), American white pelicans (7.9 percent), double-crested cormorants (6.1 percent), sandhill cranes (5.9 percent), great blue herons (1.2 percent), and ospreys (3.0 percent, Sauer et al. 2014). Dolbeer and Begier (2013) examined the estimated population trends and numbers for the 21 species of birds in North America with mean body masses >4 lbs and at least 10 strikes with civil aircraft from 1990-2012. Of these 21 species, 17 had shown population increases from 1990-2012 with a net gain of 17 million birds. Previous research had documented that 13 of the 14 bird species in North America with mean body masses >8 lbs showed significant population increases from 1970 to the early 1990s (Dolbeer and Eschenfelder 2003).

    The white-tailed deer population increased from a low of about 350,000 in 1900 to about 15 million in 1984 and to over 28 million by 2010 (McCabe and McCabe 1997, VerCauteren et al. 2011).”

    That’s an 80x increase in the deer population over a century.

    The bear population all over New England is exploding.
    https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/06/20/bears/4iQHkreqivLLYBjLvtudDK/story.html

    Forest growth is expanding in every state in the U.S. in both acreage and stock. The world is adding about 2 billion tons of biomass every year, increasing biodiversity. It’s due to the slight 1C degree warming since the Industrial Revolution began, the increase in atmospheric CO2, and millions of acres of marginal farmland being returned to the wild due to always improving agricultural yields. I’m only allowed two links so Google Jesse Ausubel “Nature Rebounds” for the report. On the front of the report there is a photo of a humpback whale taking a breath in New York harbor with the Empire State Building perfectly centered in the background. Just a great wildlife photo.

  9. Dave:

    “When’s the last time you heard a negative story concerning wildlife that wasn’t in some way caused by human greed.”

    Humankind is a blip on the record of our planet. There have been massive extinction events. No life form has ever lasted forever. For every species, there is either some calamity, or it evolves into a new species adapted to a changing environment.

    Lions take over a pride and eat every single cub to bring the lionesses into estrus. Chimpanzees go to war over territory and eat the young of the vanquished. Cheetah males will keep a cheetah female from returning to her cubs so that they will die and she will go back into estrus.

    Contrary to the Liberal talking points, we are not the worst species to ever evolve. That would probably be something like the bubonic plague, malaria, or maybe the megaladon that ate ancient whale species to extinction. We do have great capability for mayhem, true, and a broad scope, but we are the only species ever in existence that has ever actively tried to save other species from extinction, or tried to conserve resources or save the planet.

    Without people, if a species is on the verge of extinction, it’s doomed, and there is no one that will either care or life a paw to save it.

  10. @KarenS

    Great post!! To be sure humans are a mixed lot with sometimes skewed priorities. But we have created art, literature, medicine, engineering, etc. and as you so aptly point out: we are the only thinking species who is actually concerned about protecting other species as well the environment.

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