We need to protect the Santa Cruz Island Fox

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ogy and behavior[edit]
 
A nighttime shot of an island fox with three mice in its jaws.
Its preferred habitat is complex layer vegetation with a high density of woody, perennially fruiting shrubs. The fox lives in all of the island biomesincluding temperate forest, temperate grassland and chaparral, with no island supporting more than 1,000 foxes. The island fox eats fruits, insects, birds, eggs, crabs, lizards, and small mammals, including deer mice. The fox tends to move around by itself, rather than in packs. It is generally nocturnal, albeit with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk. Activity also fluctuates with the season; it is more active during the day in summer than it is in winter.[10]

The island fox is not intimidated by humans, although at first may show aggression. It is quite easy to tame and is generally docile.[10] The island fox communicates using auditory, olfactory and visual signals. A dominant fox uses vocalizations, staring, and ear flattening to cause another fox to submit. Signs of dominance and submission are visual, such as facial expression and body posture.[12] Its main vocalizations are barking and growling.[12] The island fox marks territory with urine and feces.Conservation status and Federal Protection[edit]
 
The golden eagle is four times the size of the island fox and can easily prey on it.
In March 2004, four subspecies of the island fox were classified as a federally protected endangered species: the Santa Cruz island fox, Santa Rosa island fox, San Miguel island fox and the Santa Catalina island fox.[13] As of 2013, the IUCN lists the entire species as near threatened, an improvement from its previous status of "critically endangered".[2] A decline in island fox populations was identified in the 1990s. On San Miguel Island, the decline began in 1994, with the adult population falling from 450 to 15 in 1999. Similar population declines were discovered on Santa Cruz Island, where the population decreased from 2,000 adults in 1994 to less than 135 in 2000, and on Santa Rosa Island where foxes may have numbered more than 1,500 in 1994, but were reduced to 14 animals by 2000.[14][15] In 2004, there were 38 San Miguel island foxes, all in captivity; 46 foxes in captivity on Santa Rosa Island and 7 in the wild (golden eagle predation prevented the release of captive foxes into the wild); Santa Cruz Island had 25 captive foxes and a stable wild population of around 100 foxes.[15]eagle predation, discovered when foxes were radio-collared and monitored, proved to be the cause of the high mortality rates.[16] The golden eagle was an uncommon visitor to the Channel Islands before the 1990s according to data gathered by Dr. Lyndal Laughrin of the University of California Santa Cruz Island Reserve, and the first golden eagle nest was recorded on Santa Cruz Island in 1999.[17] Biologists propose that the eagle may have been attracted to the islands in the 1960s after the decline of the bald eagle. The golden eagle replaced the bald eagle and began to feed on feral pigs following the decimation of the local bald eagle population due to DDT exposure in the 1950s—the bald eagle would have deterred the golden eagle from settling on the islands while it subsisted on fish.[16]The feral pigs on Santa Rosa were exterminated by the National Park Service in the early 1990s, which removed one of the golden eagle's food sources. The golden eagle then began to prey on the island fox population. Feral pigs on Santa Cruz Island and deer and elk on Santa Rosa Island were introduced almost 70 years prior to island fox decline, therefore, the golden eagle most likely did not seek these animals as alternative prey.[18] This has occurred most likely as a result of a process known as 'apparent competition'. In this process, a predator, like the golden eagle, feeds on at least two prey, for example, the island fox and feral pigs. One prey item is adapted to high predation pressure and supports the predator population (i.e. pigs), whereas the other prey item (i.e. the island fox) is poorly adapted to predation and declines as a consequence of the predation pressure. It has also been proposed that the complete removal of golden eagles may be the only action that could save three subspecies of the island fox from extinction.[19] However,

However, the pigs on Santa Cruz Island were killed by the Nature Conservancy under the idea that they brought the eagles to the foxes.[20]

Introduced diseases or parasites can devastate island fox populations. Because the island fox is isolated, it has no immunity to parasitesand diseases brought in from the mainland and are especially vulnerable to those the domestic dog may carry. A canine distemperoutbreak in 1998 killed approximately 90% of Santa Catalina Island's foxes, reducing the population from 1,300 to 103 in 2000.[17] A vaccination program has been initiated to protect Catalina Island foxes from canine distemper.[21] After several years of carefully trapping the foxes and vaccinating them against distemper and rabies, their population has reached 1,717 in 2015, surpassing the pre-disease population of about 1,300.[22] Scientists believe the distemper virus was introduced by a pet dog or a raccoon from the mainland that hitched a ride on a boat or a barge.[23] To eliminate the risk of disease, pets are not permitted in Channel Islands National Park.

Diminished food supply and general degradation of the habitat due to introduced mammal species, including feral cats, pigs, sheep, goats, and American bison, the latter having been introduced to Catalina Island in the 1920s by a Hollywood film crew shooting a Western,[24] also has had a negative effect on fox populations.

Western,[24] also has had a negative effect on fox populations.

 
San Clemente Island Fox at Santa Barbara Zoo as part of a Species Survival Plan
The foxes threaten a population of the severely endangered San Clemente Island loggerhead shrike in residence on San Clemente Island. The island fox population has been negatively affected by trapping and removal or euthanasia of foxes by the United States Navy. Since 2000, the Navy has employed different management strategies: trapping and holding foxes during the shrike breeding season, the installation of an electric fence system around shrike habitats, and the use of shock collar systems.[25]With the gradual recovery of the shrike population on San Clemente Island, the Navy no longer c

the foxes.

The populations of Santa Cruz island foxes, San Miguel island foxes, and Santa Rosa island foxes have dramatically rebounded from lows in 2000 of 70 for the Santa Cruz foxes and 15 each on San Miguel and Santa Rosa Islands.[26] The Catalina Island Conservancy runs a captive breeding program on Catalina Island.[27] On September 14, 2012, the US Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft recovery plan for the San Miguel island fox, Santa Rosa island fox, Santa Cruz island fox, and the Santa Catalina island fox.[28] By 2012, the Catalina Island Conservancy determined that there were 1,500 Santa Catalina island foxes and the population was stabilized.[29] As of 2015, there were 520 native foxes on San Miguel and 874 on Santa Rosa, according to the group Friends of the Island Fox. The number of foxes on Santa Cruz Island had risen to 1,750. The U. S Fish and Wildlife Service recommended delisting Santa Cruz, San Miguel and Santa Rosa island foxes in a major success of the Endangered Species Act. However, they are recommending that the Santa Catalina island be reclassified from endangered to threatened, because of the threat of diseases on this heavily visited island.[22]

Two other subspecies on San Nicolas and San Clemente aren't endangered. There were 263 foxes on San Nicolas and 1,230 on San Clemente.

ecause the Channel Islands are almost entirely owned and controlled by either the Catalina Island Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, or the federal government, the fox has a chance to receive the protection it needs, including constant supervision by interested officials without the ongoing threat of human encroachment on its habitat.

See also[edit]
 

 



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