The island fox, once thought to be ready to vanish from Channel Islands National Park in California, has made a stunning recovery and now counts more than 2,500 individuals. Park officials say the fox population overall is at or approaching biological recovery following its near-95 percent decline in the 1990s.
Continued monitoring has found excellent reproduction and survival of more than 90 percent of the wild foxes. The estimated population on San Miguel Island of 577 foxes has exceeded pre-decline levels. On neighboring Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands the populations are nearing pre-decline numbers with an estimated 894 and 1,100 animals, respectively, the park reports.
Intensive fox recovery actions from 1999 to 2008 included eradication of feral pigs, relocation of 44 predatory golden eagles, restoration of bald eagles, and a ten-year captive breeding and release program of Island foxes. During that period, 225 pups were born in captivity, and 254 foxes were released to the wild.
This week the park hosted the 16th Island Fox Conservation Working Group, a meeting of scientists, veterinarians, zoo experts, resource managers, and community members dedicated to fox recovery. The working group was to discuss the status of each of the six island fox subspecies and was to hear from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on the status of the island fox recovery plan. They were to outline plans to address current threats to the island fox populations, including a new parasitic worm on San Miguel Island, drought and climate change effects, and the risk of introduction of canine and other diseases.