Action timeline

June 1, 2000 – The Center and the Institute for Wildlife Studies submitted a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list four of the six subspecies of the island fox as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

December 4, 2000 – The Center formally notified the Service that it would file suit for the agency's failure to respond to the petition. Despite the imperiled status of the foxes, the Service refused to process the petition.

August 28, 2001 – The Center, the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, and the California Native Plant Society reached an agreement with the Service to help expedite Endangered Species Act protection for 29 species, including the island fox.

December 10, 2001 – The Service issued a formal proposal to protect the four imperiled island fox subspecies under the Endangered Species Act.

April 17, 2003 – The Center sued the Service for failing to finalize its decision to list the foxes.

March 5, 2004 – The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the island foxes as endangered.

October 7, 2004 – The agency proposed to designate critical habitat for the island fox.

November 9, 2005 – The Service declared that it would not designate critical habitat for any of the endangered island fox subspecies, essentially stating that because the foxes use all the habitats available on their islands, their local environment did not meet the definition of critical habitat.

February 12, 2016 – The Service proposed to remove three subspecies of the island fox from the endangered list and to downlist a fourth from "endangered" to "threatened." The three subspecies found to be recovered are the San Miguel island fox, Santa Rosa island fox and Santa Cruz island fox. The Santa Catalina island fox is retaining protection as a threatened species because it still faces the ongoing threat of introduction of disease from stowaway raccoons or visitors letting their dogs off leash.

August 11, 2016 – The Fish and Wildlife Service announced the successful recovery (and official removal from the endangered species list) of three out of four of the unique subspecies of island fox: the foxes on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands. The agency also downgraded the protection status of the Santa Catalina Island fox — the fourth subspecies — from “endangered” to “threatened” to reflect its status improvement.

Photo courtesy Flickr/Jim Steelquist