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Santa Cruz Island fox



The Santa Cruz fox (Urocyon littoralis santacruzae) is one of six island fox subspecies endemic to each of the six large Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. It declined catastrophically from 1,465 animals in 1994 to 135 in 1999 and 60 in 2001 [2]. The National Park Service initiated emergency measures to save it in 1999 and in 2004 it was listed as an endangered species [1]. Twenty foxes were brought into captivity in 2002 and a captive breeding program was initiated. By 2005, there were 150 wild and 62 captive foxes [2].

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