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San Miguel Island fox

 

 

The San Miguel Island fox (Urocyon littoralis littoralis) is one of six island fox subspecies endemic to each of the six Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California [1]. It declined from around 450 adults in 1994 to 15 in 1999 [2]. The National Park Service initiated emergency measures to save the fox in 1999 and in 2004 the species was listed as endangered [1]. In 2000, all but one of the wild foxes was brought into captivity to initiate a captive breeding program [2]. By 2003, no wild foxes remained. By 2005, there were 40 wild and 26 captive foxes.

The primary cause of decline was predation by golden eagles [1]. Prior to the 1990s, golden eagles did not occur on the Channel Islands; possibly because they were kept away by nesting bald eagles. The extirpation of the bald eagle and the introduction of feral pigs to the islands (providing a prey base for the golden eagle) may have led colonization of the islands by golden eagles. As of 2004, 37 golden eagles had been removed from Santa Cruz Island, but as many as 12 remain and efforts to remove them will continue. There is also an effort underway to assess the feasibility of relocating bald eagles into the islands. Twelve juvenile bald eagles were released onto Santa Cruz Island in 2002 and 11 were released in 2003. As of 2004, 15 of bald eagles remained on the island.

[1] National Park Service. Island Fox recovery Program 2004 Annual Report. Channel Islands National Park, Technical Report 05-07.
[2] Coonan, T. 2006. Year-end population data for three island fox subspecies, 1994-2005. Spreadsheet provided by Tim Coonan, Channel Islands National Park, May 8, 2006.

Banner photo © Phillip Colla