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Santa Rosa Island fox



The Santa Rosa Island fox (Urocyon littoralis santarosae) 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 1,780 animals in 1994 to 14 in 1999 [2]. The National Park Service initiated emergency measures to save it in 1999 and in 2004 it was listed as an endangered species [1]. The 14 remaining wild foxes were brought into captivity in 2000 (leaving none in the wild) and a captive breeding program was initiated. The subspecies was reintroduced to the wild in 2003, and by 2005 there were 32 wild and 34 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