Monday, March 08, 2010

Talking About Island Foxes

What would an island fox say if it could talk?

That is the question Friends of the Island Fox V.P. of Education Keri Dearborn will be exploring on the EverGreen Show, an environmental education radio show produced for California State University, San Bernardino's Internet radio station.

Listen in and hear why the island fox is so important to the island ecosystems and what you can do to help endangered island foxes.

The EverGreen Show airs:
  • Tuesday, March 9 from 6-6:30 PM
  • and replays Thursday, March 11 from 6-6:30 PM.

CLICK HERE to Listen to the interview from CSUSB Coyote Radio

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Friends of the Island Fox Funds #50

Today is a Landmark Day.

Friends of the Island Fox is proud to announce the funding of our 50th radio collar!

Despite the difficult economic times, people like you have stepped forward to play an active role in saving the endangered island fox.

Radio collars play an important role in allowing biologists to track fox behavior, monitor fox health and determine threats to fox survival. Radio collar on fire fox

In 2000, four populations of island foxes teetered toward extinction. Why island fox's were endangered

Today, with your help and support, island fox populations are recovering. Current populations

Because island foxes live only on the Channel Islands, like all island species they are small populations that can be quickly impacted by the introduction of disease, ecosystem imbalance and potentially, climate change.

Your support of island fox conservation efforts is vital to the survival of this endangered California species.

As we begin 2010, Friends of the Island Fox thanks all of you for renewing your effort to insure that this keystone species survives into the future.

You can help fund additional radio collars, vaccinations and conservation efforts by CLICKING on the Donate Now buttons at the top of the page.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Give the Gift of Saving a Species

photo courtesy of NPS volunteer Inge Rose

Across San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands, island fox numbers are rising. Populations that hovered just above extinction, with just 15 individual animals, are climbing toward recovery.

This Holiday Season you can give the gift of helping support island fox recovery.

$250 funds a radio-collar for an island fox

To date Friends of the Island Fox has funded 47 radio-tracking collars for monitoring wild island foxes. Radio collars provide important information on island fox welfare, including the first information on threats from disease or golden eagle predation. Radio Collars.

When you sponsor a radio collar you receive information about an individual island fox, its history and current life in the wild. You are actively playing a role in island fox conservation.

$100 supports Friends of the Island Fox education programs in schools
This year alone, FIF provided FREE educational programs to 2,000 students from 3rd grade to college. The next generation is the vital connection to sustaining wild populations of island foxes. FIF in schools. Interaction with students and community.

$50 funds rabies and distemper vaccinations for 5 island foxes

Diseases transmitted from domestic pets or introduced animals pose a serious threat to island foxes. Each year island foxes are given Health Checks. In order to maintain viable populations in the face of another disease outbreak, 80 - 100 island foxes need to be vaccinated on all 6 islands.

You can play an active role in island fox recovery by donating to Friends of the Island Fox. Give a gift that makes a difference and helps to save the endangered island fox.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Island Foxes by Any Other Name

photo courtesy Kevin Schafer

Island foxes (Urocyon littoralis) are unique to the Channel Islands off the coast of southern California. But as we travel to different schools and communities we have run across a variety of names for foxes.

Foxes are the most diverse group of canines with various species found all over the world. There are arctic foxes that turn white in winter to blend in with the arctic snow. There are kit foxes and fennec foxes, adapted for deserts in North America and Africa, respectively. The red fox is found world wide (some populations being natural and others introduced by people).

Because various kinds of foxes are found all over the world, a word for fox appears in many languages. Here are a few that students have provided:

  • zorro - Spanish
  • daeb - Arabic
  • Yu woo - Korean
  • renard - French
  • fuchs - German
  • volpe - Italian

Foxes belong to the subfamily of animals called canines which includes wolves, dingos, African wild dogs, jackals, coyotes and domestic dogs. Canines originally evolved in North America. Many of the canines that we know today, however, are members of the family that migrated from North America to other parts of the world millions of years ago. Even the gray wolf is from a line of canines that migrated to Asia and then returned to North America.

The coyote (Canis latrans) and the gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), the ancestor of the island fox, never left North America. They are ancient species that lived side-by-side with saber-toothed cats and mammoths.

Island foxes have lived on the Channel Islands for at least 6,000 years. Friends of the Island Foxes urges you to explore our website and learn more about the island fox. The island fox only lives in one place in the world, on the California Channel Islands and each island has a different subspecies. To continue to survive into the future, the island fox needs your help.

A $10 donation will vaccinate an island fox against the threat of introduced disease: distemper and rabies.

To Donate CLICK on the Pay Pal or Network for Good button in the upper right corner.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two Special Dates for the Island Fox

April offers two special days to see island foxes. Both the Los Angeles Zoo and the Santa Barbara Zoo are celebrating special events for Earth Day that shine a spotlight on California’s endangered island fox.

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Saturday and Sunday, April 18 & 19

“Celebrate Earth Day at the Zoo”

The L. A. Zoo will be highlighting California species during their Earth Day celebration. Friends of the Island Fox will be on hand to offer special activities both days.

  • 11:30 Radio Tracking Demonstration
  • 12:00 Island Fox Exhibit Talk
  • 1:00 Radio Tracking Demonstration
  • 1:30 Fox Health Check (See what the biologists do in the field and give a helping hand)
  • 2:00 Island Fox Exhibit Talk in Spanish

We will be located near the island fox exhibit in the zoo. Come by, say ‘Hello’ and meet an island fox.
More on L.A. Zoo hours and directions:

Santa Barbara Zoo

Celebrate the opening of California Trails
Saturday, April 25, 2009

Come meet one of our favorite island foxes, Finnigan.

The Santa Barbara Zoo is opening their new California Trails exhibit complex. This $6 million construction project includes a renovation of the Channel Island fox exhibit and Condor Country - only the second zoo exhibit in America to display California condors.

Joining the island foxes and California condors are exhibits displaying desert tortoises, bald eagles and Rattlesnake Canyon. Rattlesnake canyon “showcases endangered reptiles and amphibians found in the Los Padres National Forest, including the red-legged frog. The [Santa Barbara] Zoo works in the field with the U. S. Forest Service to monitor this species, which has been decimated due to nonnative predators, such as bullfrogs, pollution, and habitat loss due to development. Western toads, now also facing habitat loss, are also displayed along with rattlesnakes, salamanders, newts, and other frogs.”

The renovated area also includes “the new Explore Store [which] demonstrates how buying "green" directly helps protect the habitats of these creatures, both around the world and in California.”

The new exhibits at the Santa Barbara Zoo offer an exciting opportunity to meet California’s native creatures. The special celebration on April 25th will also offer the chance to see Finnigan, the ambassador island fox. More about Finnigan.

For more information, hours and directions:

Come out and support these two zoos that have played an important role in aiding the island fox.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Island Fox Questions

Friends of the Island Fox is committed to connecting the community with the problems and issues concerned with protecting island foxes. When we receive questions, we want to bring you answers directly from the people in the field with these endangered animals. We received a great question from a student and were able to get a first-hand response.

hi this is a student from balboa middle school. i loved the presentation we got on Wednesday March 11, 2009. the video they showed us was very cute!!!! i have a few questions:
  • how often do the island foxes get hurt?
  • when you take them to the hospital does it hurt the foxes?
  • how long was it until you let the foxes free from cativity?
from a true inpired girl, Anastasia p.s. what are the people , who help the foxes????

Sara is an Island Fox Technician for Channel Island National Park on Santa Rosa Island, she answered:

Hi Anastasia,

Good questions.

Most of the injuries to island foxes have come from mate aggression during breeding (winter/spring) season. This was more common in our captive [breeding] population but has been documented in the wild population as well. These injuries include minor bites and tears around the ears, to more significant trauma involving rips, bites and abscesses (infected pockets under the skin) in various places. The foxes are actually fairly aggressive and scrappy toward one another during this time of the year.

Other common injuries include foxtails stuck in an eye or ear and torn toenails, these usually don't require any additional treatment beyond the time of observance. And, every now and then with the captives, we would find a case of ringworm, exciting.

Each island has a clinic called a "Foxpital" and is set up like a small veterinary clinic with all the necessary equipment to properly care for an ill or injured fox. When a fox requires care, they are brought into the foxpital and given an initial assessment by one of our staff fox biologists, from there a veterinarian is consulted to determine the best course of treatment. If necessary, we have veterinarians on call who can come out and perform emergency procedures on the island. Each animal's stay is dependent on the nature and extent of their injury. Most often, if an injury requires a stay in the foxpital, the animal is in for a week or so. In very rare cases we have cared for animals as long as three months.

Thanks for your interest in the island fox,


Island Fox Technician
Channel Islands National Park
Santa Rosa Island

Other stories on injured foxes:
Fox and the Fishing Lure
Burnie Boots

Your Donations to Friends of the Island Fox support conservation efforts across all of the Channel Islands to help island foxes.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

The Island Fox and the Fishing Hook

Because island foxes live on the Channel Islands and not on the mainland, some people wonder how their actions can do anything to help the island fox. But the island fox is our neighbor and our actions affect the fox directly and indirectly.

For example, someone fishing on or around Santa Catalina Island cut loose or lost a fishing line with a lure. The large lure found its way on shore. Perhaps it smelled of fish, because it attracted a curious and hungry island fox. While the angler had no intention of hurting an island fox, the abandoned lure did not discriminate. The hook lodged in the male fox’s upper and lower lip. He became unable to eat or drink, resulting in malnourishment and dehydration.

Fortunately, the injured fox was caught and taken into the Catalina Island Conservancy clinic on November 27, 2008. The lure was removed and the island fox’s face was stitched up. He was treated with antibiotics and nutritional supplements. By December 8th, he had recovered and was able to be released back into the wild on Santa Catalina Island. Other island foxes treated by the Catalina Island Conservancy.

Abandoned fishing hooks, line and nets can cause unintentional injury to sea life, birds and mammals like the island fox. You can make a big difference for a wide variety of animals by discarding used fishing line and hooks into the trash. If you find abandoned fishing equipment carefully gather it and dispose of it appropriately, but be careful of hooks! Abandoned fishing hooks are dangerous for everyone.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

33rd Radio Collar Funded

As the good news of higher island fox populations is coming in from across the California Channel Islands, the crisis of extinction seems to be past. The challenge of the future comes in monitoring recovering populations.

To that end, Friends of the Island Fox is proud to announce the funding of our 33rd radio tracking collar. This collar will go on a fox on Santa Catalina Island and be monitored by the biologists with the Catalina Island Conservancy.

Radio tracking collars have proved to be the best way to monitor large segments of the island fox population. Whether biologists are on the ground tracking the “beep” with a hand-held antenna, flying over in a small plane, or reading data from an automated system, the radio collar on the individual island fox provides valuable information.

  • Locating individuals: Each collared island fox has its own radio frequency. In the case of an emergency, like the Catalina Fire, surviving individual foxes can be located quickly by airplane fly over. The status of a large amount of the population can be determined in a short amount of time. If a collared fox is seen with an injury, biologists can locate the individual via its radio collar and specifically set trap cages to catch that one fox. This makes medical care more efficient.

  • Health care in the field: Biologists can track a recovering island fox, like the little female that was burned in the 2007 Catalina Fire. Burnie Boots. Being able to watch from a distance allows the patient to return to a wild lifestyle.

  • Behavior: Radio collars provide information on island fox movement across the islands. We are learning that male offspring travel further from their parents territory than females. The territory of individual foxes can be closer approximated, allowing foxes that are being released a better chance of being released into unclaimed territory. Release Video

  • Mortality signals: If an island fox is completely still for six hours, the radio collar will give off a special “mortality” beep. This allows biologists to locate an island fox that has died. Necropsy, or study of the dead body, can quickly determine cause of death. Island Fox CSI. If an island fox has been killed by a golden eagle, died of disease, or gotten trapped in a man-made facility, actions can be rapidly taken to safeguard the rest of the island fox population on that island.

Each collared island fox is an important link in a vital monitoring network.

Each radio collar costs $250.

Your donations have helped to fund 33 radio tracking collars. Thank you for helping to make a positive difference.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good News for Island Foxes

The numbers are gradually coming in from the biologists on the six Channel Islands that are home to the island fox. On the four islands where island foxes are endangered, San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa Catalina, the populations continue to increase.

Each autumn, island foxes are counted by trapping them in specially designed containment traps. This allows biologists to determine the number of island foxes on each island, check their health, give them vaccinations for distemper and rabies, and fit radio tracking collars.

For more on Health Checks on Catalina Foxes.

Last year the number of island foxes
physically counted on Santa Catalina Island was 365. This year over 500 have been individually counted!

Endangered island fox populations are recovering successfully on all four islands, but we still have a long way to go to reach the population numbers before disease struck Santa Catalina Island and ecosystem imbalance resulted in golden eagles hunting island foxes on the northern islands. Why are island foxes endangered?

Island fox recovery has been possible because of broad reaching conservation efforts on their behalf.

You can help !

Donations To Friends of the Island Fox Help:
  • purchase radio collars to monitor wild island foxes. Learn More
  • supply vaccinations against disease transmitted from domestic dogs and species transported onto the islands. Learn More
  • fund necropsies to study the cause of death in island foxes. Learn More
  • support education programs to teach school children and community groups about this local endangered species and the Channel Island Ecosystem. Learn More
You can Donate by clicking on the PayPal or Network for Good buttons at the top right corner.

Stay Linked In. As soon as the final population numbers are available, we will post them here on the Friends of the Island Fox website.

For detailed information on each island fox population as well as research summaries, video and podcasts - Click on the Library button in the directory bar.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Island Fox on NBC Nightly News

The success of the conservation efforts to save the Channel Island fox made the NBC Nightly News on Monday, December 1, 2008 !

How wonderful to see the faces of our friends at Channel Islands National Park talking about the island fox’s rapid progress toward recovery. National Park Service fox biologist, Tim Coonan is a familiar face on the Friends of the Island Fox website.

SEE Tim Coonan releasing island fox M-67 back into the wild.

LISTEN to an interview with Tim Coonan.

Friends of the Island Fox is proud to have worked with Tim and the dedicated people at Channel Islands National Park. Donations to Friends of the Island Fox have supported this successful conservation effort by funding radio tracking collars and den boxes at the captive breeding facility on Santa Rosa Island.

Yes, island fox populations are increasing, but when the NBC reporter said there are 650 island foxes, he was referring to across the three northern islands, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz. Prior to the decline in the late 1990s, there were over 1,500 island foxes estimated on Santa Rosa Island alone.

The two populations on San Miguel and Santa Rosa, which crashed down to just 15 individuals on each island, are still highly vulnerable. The current estimates are just over 100 island foxes on each of these two islands.

The island fox on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Island is STILL an endangered species.

Monitoring these populations with radio tracking collars is vital to maintaining the continued success of their recovery. Each radio collar costs $250. Funding is still needed to put radio tracking collars on island foxes.

Canine diseases, distemper and rabies, continue to pose a serious threat to these small isolated populations. Annual health checks and vaccinations against these diseases still need to be funded.

You can help to insure that the island fox continues its historical recovery by donating to Friends of the Island Fox and supporting these continuing important conservation efforts.

WATCH the NBC Nightly News report on the island fox.


ADDITIONAL NBC reports on the island fox:



For More Information on the Channel Island fox. Current Island Fox Information.

About the Channel Islands:

San Miguel Island VIDEO
Santa Rosa Island
Santa Cruz Island
San Nicolas Island
Santa Catalina Island

All six islands with island foxes

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Island Foxes Back in the Wild

Friday November 7, the remaining able-bodied male island fox in captivity at the captive breeding facility on Santa Rosa Island was released into the wild. This happy day marks an important milestone in the recovery of this endangered species.

You can WATCH a moment of history as 6-year-old, M-67 steps out of his transport carrier and into the island scrub of Santa Rosa Island in Channel Islands National Park. LOOK for M-67's radio telemetry collar. The tracking collar was funded by donations to Friends of the Island Fox and will help keep track of this tiny fox as he makes his way in the wild.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Milestone for Endangered Channel Island Fox

The door of the travel kennel opened and M- 67 leapt out. But rather than dash off across the lupine studded hillside, he hesitated and looked around. He seemed to know it was a moment to be savored.

When island fox populations on the northern islands plummeted to the edge of extinction in 1999, Channel Islands National Park and the Nature Conservancy established captive breeding facilities on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands “as insurance against the loss of foxes from golden eagle predation.” But as the Channel Island National Park stated in their press release regarding the historic events of November 2008 - “With fox recovery on the rise, the one remaining captive breeding facility on Santa Rosa Island will close. Captive breeding is responsible for saving the island fox from the brink of extinction on Santa Cruz, San Miguel, and Santa Rosa Islands.”

In the past few weeks, 31 island foxes from the Santa Rosa Island breeding facility have been returned to the wild. Today–November 7, 2008–as Pat Meyer and Friends of the Island Fox, Inc. board members and members of the press looked on, National Park Service biologist Tim Coonan opened the door to freedom for M67. The little 6 year-old male fox was born in the captive breeding facility and over the years had been paired with several females. Now, he sat gazing at the wide open expanse around him.

Eight years ago when the Santa Rosa island fox population teetered on the edge of extinction with just 15 remaining individuals, Tim Coonan would have never believed this day could come so quickly. On this perfect autumn day, his words to M67 were prophetic, “Go on, you can do it.”

After a quick look over his shoulder, the little island fox bounded off through the low bushes. As he disappeared over a small hill, we heard the hardy beep, beep, beep of the signal from his radio tracking collar. This historic little fox has returned to the wild wearing a radio collar funded by donations to Friends of the Island Fox.

On this momentous day, Friends of the Island Fox proudly presented funds to Channel Islands National Park for two additional fox radio collars. To date, with your support, Friends of the Island Fox has helped put radio tracking collars on 22 island foxes on the northern islands and 10 island foxes on Santa Catalina Island. Radio tracking collars are vital to monitoring the continued success of one of America’s rarest mammals.

For more on the historic return of island foxes to the wild:

Coverage by Lance Orozco from KCLU NPR Radio News in Ventura. Link to KCLU Radio

Article by Chuck Graham in the Ventura County Reporter, 11/13/08

NBC Nightly News during the week of 11/10-14/08

We will be posting video and a podcast of M67’s release in the next week.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Island Fox Information

Friends of the Island Fox announces the launch of our
Educational Resources Library

ur goal is to bring the expertise of researchers, land managers and biologists in the field, to the general public. We want you to have access to the most current information available about the island fox and the Channel Island ecosystem.

By clicking on the "Library" button in the navigation bar at the top of the page, you will go directly to our library of resources both written and visual.

Our new list of publications includes:
  • an Island Fox Fact Sheet (written by Catherine Schwemm PhD, co-author of an upcoming book on the island fox)
  • Island Fox Update 2008 (the most current information island-by-island)
  • Summaries of recent research findings on island fox behavior, relationships with eagles, island fox health, management, and the island fox and the Channel Island ecosystem
Dive into the new Library and discover the important news from the scientists:

  • The San Miguel Island fox is making the most successful recovery recorded in a canine species
  • Eagles leave evidence in their nests that proves what they are eating
  • The Santa Catalina Island fox is facing serious health threats
Click on "Library" in the navigation bar at the top of the site.

Friends of the Island Fox is devoted to providing educational resources about the island fox and the Channel Islands ecosystem to the public. Your donations help support this effort and island fox conservation.

To donate click on the Pay Pal button in the upper right panel.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fox Festival at Santa Barbara Zoo

The Santa Barbara Zoo Island Fox Festival

Sunday, October 5, 2008
11:00 AM - 3:00 PM

The Santa Barbara Zoo and Roots 'n Shoots are sponsoring the Island Fox Festival this weekend. It is a great opportunity to learn about the various conservation efforts of Roots 'n Shoots youth groups and to meet a Channel Island fox.

Even though the island fox enclosure is closed for remodeling,
Finnigan, an island fox born at the Zoo last year, will be making appearances at presentations during the day. MORE on Finnigan.

Friends of the Island Fox
will be participating in the festivities during the day. Come by and visit us.

This is a wonderful family event with music, crafts and activities.

For more about the Santa Barbara Zoo and Directions

More about Roots 'n Shoots.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Update on a Special Island Fox

May 2007 a wild fire swept over a large area of Santa Catalina Island (Helping Island Foxes In Fire Area). After the fire, a female island fox was found with severe burns on her four paws. Her fur was singed and sooty. Diligent care provided by the Catalina Island Conservancy allowed the little fox to recover and she was released July 11, 2007 wearing a radio collar funded by donations to Friends of the Island Fox.

In November of 2007, “Burnie Boots,” as she has been nicknamed, was captured during island-wide fox health checks and she appeared to be doing well. Her feet had recovered fully. The only sign of her previous injury is that two of her toe pads are fused together. This fusing of the tissue happened during the healing process.

Boots’ radio collar transmits a specific radio frequency that allows biologists to hone in on her location and check on her movements, even if they can not physically see her. As long as the little fox continues to actively move around, her radio collar transmits a constant signal. If something should happen to Boots and she should stop being active, the radio collar would send out a distinctive distress signal.

As July 2008 approached, Boots’ battery-powered collar was in need of replacement. Using the radio collar signal, the Catalina biologists were able to set a trap specifically in the area where Boots was living. They captured her and, as the photo shows, her fur has completely recovered. The biologists replaced Boots' radio collar, checked her health and found a happy surprise. Not only had Boots recovered from last year’s burns, she showed signs of nursing pups. This spring the little fox saved from the fire became a mother. Her pups are helping to increase the Catalina Island fox population.

Burnie Boots’ success story is the result of many people working together to help the endangered island fox. The Catalina Island Conservancy manages the daily needs of this specific subspecies of island fox. Donations raised through Friends of the Island Fox by students in the Fox Ambassador Program and from concerned private individuals provided Boots with both of her radio collars.

Saving this endangered species requires community awareness and involvement. You can make a difference and help save the Channel island fox.

Donations to Friends of the Island Fox are used directly toward island fox conservation efforts and public education. You can donate directly to Friends of the Island Fox through our PayPal button at the top right corner or by check to:

Friends of the Island Fox
3760 Groves Place, Somis CA 93066

(805) 386-0386

Your school, class or youth group can become Island Fox Ambassadors

For questions about school presentations and the Fox Ambassador Program contact us at islandfoxnews@gmail.com

Listen to a fox health check in progress.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Experiencing San Nicolas Island

Island Journal - Summer 2008

Visiting California’s San Nicolas Island is a unique opportunity. This remote and wind-swept island is owned by the United States Navy. Friends of the Island Fox President, Pat Meyer, and I were fortunate to receive a special invitation for a short visit.

At first glance, the treeless slopes seem barren, but life here clings low to the ground to survive shifting wind. Delicate verbena flowers rise up from the sandy soil. Giant coreopsis, a species unique to the Channel Islands and the Southern California coast, stand like a forest of gray stick figures. This member of the daisy family grows several feet tall on a woody stem. In spring, the dried trunks come back to life and produce pompoms of lacy green topped with brilliant yellow flowers. (coreopsis photo)

Now, in July, the stems are dormant again, but the coreopsis forest is gradually spreading across 10% of the island. It is a clear sign that native plants are returning.

San Nicolas currently has the largest island fox population and the greatest number of foxes per square kilometer. We came hoping to see wild island foxes and the island didn’t disappoint us.

We were even lucky enough to see a litter of four pups born this spring. They were about 2 months old and bold little explorers. This is dad with one of the pups in the early morning fog.

Gazing across the dunes and scrub, it is hard to imagine there is enough cover to hide a fox, but the San Nicolas island foxes are tiny. The individuals we saw were slighter in weight and shorter, than the Catalina island foxes. It might seem impossible, but an island fox can emerge from the short grass along the roadside in a flash and be unseen until the instant it is in front of a car. Signs warning “Watch for Foxes” dot the few roads trying to alert unexpecting drivers. (road signs)

Most of the 12 island foxes we saw were wearing radio collars. Radio-collared foxes can be monitored by biologists and a new automated tracking system is being tested so that the movement of island foxes can be recorded in detail. The biologists are hoping this will provide greater understanding of island fox interactions and territories. Radio-collars also provide the first alert warning system for threats to island fox populations. (more on radio collars)

Dunes and grassland might seem inhospitable to a little fox, but it seems that sand fly larva may be providing an important food source for these foxes.

San Nicolas is a unique ecosystem and also home to endangered island night lizards and snowy plover. We saw one snowy plover and a number of other shore birds, including Western gull chicks. The beaches were busy with breeding California sea lions and resting immature elephant seals.

At night, sea lion barks hauntingly drifted up from the beaches. Fog streaked over the dry land. Here and there the wind would tear open a hole to expose the dark black sky with brilliant white stars.

San Nicolas Island is a wedge of sandstone cliffs carved by the waves of the Pacific Ocean. A unique landscape and home to the San Nicolas Island fox. - Keri Dearborn

Links to
Experiencing Santa Cruz Island
Experiencing Santa Rosa Island

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

CSI: Island Fox

What happens when an island fox is found dead?

A Critter Scene Investigation

Just like your favorite crime drama on TV, it takes a team of scientists to understand what has happened when an endangered island fox is found dead.

Determining the cause of death for an animal that has died is a critical component of island fox recovery. Radio collars worn by all released and wild-born foxes provide a unique signal when an animal is motionless for 12 hours. (more about radio collars)

When this signal is detected, field personnel locate the collar and collect the carcass if in fact the animal is deceased. Island fox carcasses are sent to Dr. Linda Munson at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, where she and her staff perform necropsies (autopsies) to determine precisely what killed each animal.

Information from necropsies helped determine the direct association between the island foxes decline and predation by golden eagles on the Northern Channel Islands and disease on Santa Catalina Island.

Helping the island fox comes in a variety of forms. Necropsies continue to provide critical information on disease, health, and continuing predation issues. Each island fox necropsy requires several hours of veterinarian time and follow-up laboratory analysis, and costs approximately $250. Because this program is not otherwise funded, there is a growing need for help in funding this vital part of island fox conservation.

You can help a real CSI, a Critter Scene Investigation. Your donations to Friends of the Island Fox can help to fund important scientific work and island fox necropsies.

To donate through Pay Pal, click on the Pay Pal button at the upper right corner of the page.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Video of Wild Island Fox

What is small, but mighty? Only 3-6 lbs., but willing to stand its ground and protect its territory? An island fox.

Catalina Island Conservancy wildlife biologist Calvin Duncan
approached a wild fox’s territory, he took this video of an island fox on Santa Catalina Island.

Protecting territory is important for a pair of island foxes. They need a hunting area that will provide enough food to support themselves and their pups. How does an island fox let you know you are in its territory? Watch and see.

Images like this of an island fox in the wild are very rare. Island foxes on Santa Catalina Island declined dramatically
between 1998 and 2000 because of a disease, canine distemper, that was passed to them from a domestic dog. Today the estimated population has increased to approximately 572 individuals, slightly more than one third of their original number. Catalina island fox decline

The fact that island foxes are running wild again on Catalina, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and San Miguel Islands is due to the undaunted efforts of biologists, scientists, government agencies, private conservation organizations and concerned individuals like YOU.

When you support island fox conservation efforts YOU HELP to make sure that moments like this will continue into the future.

A special thanks to the Catalina Island Conservancy fox biologists Calvin Duncan and Julie King for sharing their experiences in the field with us. For more on their work with the Catalina island fox: Counting island foxes; Island Fox Health Check.

See video of an island fox release on San Miguel Island. Link

Island fox and fruit
What do island fox pups look like?
What do island foxes eat?

Why are they endangered?
More about island foxes

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Earth Day and the Island Fox

This Saturday and Sunday,
Friends of the Island Fox
will be at the

Los Angeles Zoo Earth Day Expo 2008

April 19 and 20, 2008
10:00AM - 4PM

The event will highlight California Wildlife and part of that focus will be the endangered island fox.

The Los Angeles Zoo is home to a male San Clemente Island fox. FIF and representatives from the Channel Islands National Park will be up near the island fox enclosure providing activities throughout the day.

  • 11:30 AM & 2:30 PM Fox Health Check: Participate in all the steps that biologists do in the field to check the health of wild island foxes.

  • Noon & 3 PM Radio Tracking Demonstration: How do biologists find small island foxes on large islands? Come and help us a track a radio collared animal in the zoo.

  • 1 PM Exhibit Talk at the Island Fox Enclosure

Come out to the L.A. Zoo, help celebrate Earth Day and find out how you can help preserve California’s unique wildlife diversity like the endangered island fox.

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Happy Birthday to Finnigan, The Island Fox

One of our favorite island foxes just turned 1 year old.

Finnigan, or Finn for short, was born last year at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Because his mother is an older fox, she did not nurse him and the Zoo staff had to hand raise him. See Finn's baby picture.

Fortunately this little island fox had the perfect personality to become an educational representative for all of his wild cousins. Finn makes guest appearances at special events at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

The Santa Barbara Zoo actively participates in island fox conservation and is the home of Finnigan, his parents, and two other island foxes. For more information on visiting the Santa Barbara Zoo and seeing the island foxes that live there.

Friends of the Island Fox sends our best wishes to a hard working island fox.

Happy, Healthy, First Birthday, Finnigan !

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Island Romance - Island Fox Mating Season

Island Romance - Island Fox Mating Season

Are you contemplating romance and Valentine’s Day? So are the island foxes. The cold blustery days from December to February are the perfect season for California’s Channel Island foxes to pair up and settle down in a cozy den.

During autumn, island fox families tend to split up. The youngsters, now over six months old, head off on their own and the parents take a vacation from family life and each other. With the arrival of winter, the monogamous mates come back together. (About the island fox)

Island foxes make their dens in a sheltered location, sometimes underground, in a tree stump or in amongst dense undergrowth. The male and female establish a territory around their den site and settle down to finding food for a family.

A few island foxes born last spring, will also be out looking for a mate. Even though they are less than a year old, some will become parents this spring. Because population numbers are still far below normal on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina Islands, island foxes are breeding younger and having more offspring than they usually would. The abundance of island deer mice and other food items makes it possible for a pair of island foxes to raise five pups instead of the typical two or three.

Valentine’s Day 2008 will be very special on San Miguel and Santa Cruz Islands. For the first time since emergency captive breeding began in 2000, ALL of the island foxes on these two islands are once again free-roaming and choosing their own mates.
(2007 fox release on San Miguel Island) (2007 fox release on Santa Cruz Island).

Captive breeding programs saved the island foxes from extinction on both of these islands, but human matchmakers are never as good as the foxes themselves. We can all hope that this year there will be an increased number of island fox pups born on San Miguel and Santa Cruz Islands.

Eleven of the island foxes released in Channel Islands National Park are wearing radio-tracking collars funded through donations to Friends of the Island Fox. (radio collars)

Pups born in the spring and foxes slated for release from the captive breeding facility on Santa Rosa Island will soon be needing there own radio tracking collars. Your donation to Friends of the Island Fox helps to provide radio tracking collars vital to monitoring the recovery of endangered island foxes. You can donate through the PayPal and Cause for Good buttons in the upper right .

This Valentine’s Day give a truly romantic gift.
Help support a solution.

Working together we can SAVE the island fox.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Island Fox Update - Channel Islands National Park

Island Fox Update
with Tim Coonan

Wednesday, December 12th at 7.00 P.M.

As part of the Shore to Sea Lecture Series, Tim Coonan, biologist for Channel Islands National Park, will speak on the most current information regarding the island foxes on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands.

This is a great opportunity to hear the most up-to-date information on the island foxes on the northern islands.

The free lecture will be presented at:

Channel Islands National Park headquarters
1901 Spinnaker Drive in Ventura

Hear an interview with Tim Coonan.

Good News 2007 island foxes on Santa Cruz Island

Good News 2007 island foxes on San Miguel Island

Counting foxes on Santa Catalina Island

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Island Foxes Released on Santa Cruz Island

October 8, 2007 was another landmark day in the ongoing recovery of our endangered island foxes on the California Channel Islands. Yesterday, 10 island fox pups, born as part of the captive breeding program on Santa Cruz Island, were released into the wild.

Due to the success of several conservation efforts the fortunes of these newly released foxes look hopeful. Since 2002, captive breeding on Santa Cruz has produced over 85 fox pups and the overall Santa Cruz Island fox population has increased to approximately 300. Golden eagles that nearly ate the foxes into extinction, have been almost completely removed from the island and bald eagles, that were reintroduced to the northern islands beginning in 2000, are now breeding successfully and repopulating their historic home. Currently, 40 bald eagles reside on the northern islands.

“Historically, fox populations on the island ranged between 1,500 and 3,000,” said Dr. Lotus Vermeer, The Nature Conservancy’s Santa Cruz Island Project Director. “After several successful breeding seasons and with golden eagle predation curtailed we’re optimistic that the foxes will continue this upward trend.”

The fox population on Santa Cruz Island has more than tripled since the island fox was listed as an endangered species just three years ago. If everything continues to go well, all of the remaining island foxes in the breeding facility on Santa Cruz will be released back into the wild before the end of 2007.

On this auspicious day, Russell E. Galipeau, Jr., Superintendent of Channel Islands National Park offered “Many thanks to our partners: Pacific West Regional Office, The Nature Conservancy, Fish and Game, Fish and Wildlife Service, Institute of Wildlife Studies, UC system, Friends of the Island Fox and special thanks for the professionalism and dedication of the entire [Channel Islands National Park] CHIS staff. Everyone has played a role in stealing the island fox from the grasp of extinction and all of you should feel proud. Island fox recovery is still going to be a long journey with many challenges, but ... [we] are making, and will continue to make far-reaching achievements in ecological restoration and what is most important to remember is that in a world of troubling times someone, somewhere must provide a ray of hope.”

You can help support that “ray of hope” and the island foxes being released into the wild.

Your donation of $250 puts a radio collar on an island fox so it can be monitored in the wild.

$100 helps pay for biological research into island fox diseases.

$50 funds materials to raise awareness about the island fox at a school visit or a community event.

With your help, Friends of the Island Fox is helping to make a difference. Working Together We Can Save the Island Fox and create a community that treasures our Channel Islands.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Island Foxes Eat Fruit

Can you find the fox in the tree?

Look high on the right-hand side.

Food can be hard to find if you are an island fox on the California Channel Islands. To reach a greater variety of foods, island foxes are excellent climbers. Their front feet are bigger than their back feet. Being able to climb allows the fox to reach birds and their eggs, but it also lets them eat fruit high in trees.

Here are two kinds of native fruit, eaten by island foxes in the fall, Catalina cherry and prickly pear.

The Catalina cherry looks similar to a cherry we might eat, but the fruit is
mostly a big seed. Birds and insects also eat the fruit, nectar and pollen from this important native plant.

But the seed is so big, it takes an animal at least the size of an island fox to swallow the cherry pit and move it to another location.

Prickly pear fruit is large and juicy with many small seeds.

Birds and foxes enjoy eating these fruit as well. The biologists on Catalina Island tell us that when the prickly pear are ripe, they see foxes with their faces stained purple.

One way we can tell what an island fox is eating is by looking at its scat or droppings. Look at the seeds in this scat and the chunks of thick plant skin. Which fruit was this island fox eating, Catalina cherry or prickly pear?

This fox was eating prickly pear. See other foods eaten by island foxes

Because the island fox swallows the seeds whole and redeposits the seeds far away from the parent plant in its scat, the fox is very important to the native plants on the Channel Islands. The island fox helps plants reseed themselves. This is especially important after events like the fire that burned a large area on Catalina Island this spring.

Wild fire and fires accidentally set by people are a threat to island foxes. It can be hard for them to escape. See Catalina Fire Survivor.

But the effect of the fire lasts longer than the
flames. Many of the plants that provide food and shelter for the island fox were burned. The good thing is, the island fox will help these plants to grow again by scattering the plants' seeds in its scat.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Friends of the Island Fox and Jane Goodall

Friends of the Island Fox is proud to join our friend Dr. Jane Goodall at the

5th Annual Day of Peace
sponsored by Roots and Shoots and the Jane Goodall Institute

Come Join in the Fun at this FREE event:

Sunday, September 23
at GRIFFITH PARK (by the merry-go-round)
11 AM - 4 PM

There will be:

Hear Jane Goodall speak and help celebrate the community and conservation work accomplished by local Roots and Shoots youth groups.

Visit Friends of the Island Fox at our booth. We will selling “Friends of the Island Fox” T-shirts and offering stuffed toy foxes for a $10 donation.

We’ll be raising funds for fox radio collars and looking for schools willing to meet the conservation challenge of becoming Fox Ambassadors.

Come by and say “Hi.”

For more information: rootsandshootsla@aol.com
or www.janegoodall.org/peace-day

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Milestone for San Miguel Island Fox

In 2000 the population of island foxes on San Miguel Island drop to a mere 15 individuals. While island foxes live on 6 of California's Channel Islands, the foxes on each island are slightly different from each other. With only 15 island foxes left on San Miguel, they were potentially the last of their kind. (Island foxes on 6 different islands.)

Working together, the National Park Service, conservation organizations, scientists and private citizens helped save the San Miguel Island Fox from going extinct.

Listen to the Fox Talk Podcast and hear an interview with biologist Tim Coonan of Channel Islands National Park and his exciting news from San Miguel Island.


Previous Fox Talk Podcast -
  • Fox Talk - July 4, 2007 Pat Meyer President of Friends of the Island Fox & Alan Varsik on the new fox pup born at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

WATCH VIDEO of island foxes being released on San Miguel Island.

Why were the San Miguel Island foxes endangered?
More about island foxes.
Captive breeding to save island foxes.
Most recent reports from all of the islands.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Highlights from the Island Fox Conference 2007

Integrated Island Fox Recovery Team Meeting
June 19-21, 2007

This was the ninth year people concerned with saving the island fox on the Channel Islands have come together to share information and strategies. Some are scientists and biologists working in the field, others represent conservation organizations or government agencies, but everyone has the same goal - assuring the recovery of the four endangered island fox populations and maintaining the health of the two populations on the southern islands.

Reports were provided by each of the land managers or their representatives:
  1. San Miguel and Santa Rosa Islands - Tim Coonan, National Park Service
  2. Santa Cruz Island - Rachel Wolstenholme, The Nature Conservancy
  3. Santa Catalina Island - Julie King, Catalina Island Conservancy
  4. San Clemente Island - Bill Andelt, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology Colorado State University
  5. San Nicolas Island - Grace Smith, U.S. Navy
  6. Alan Varsik, Director of Animal Programs and Conservation at the Santa Barbara Zoo and keeper of the studbook for the captive San Clemente Island fox population in mainland Zoos.
Reproduction in the wild has been very successful and endangered island fox populations continue to recover. However, golden eagle attacks reoccurred this spring threatening foxes on Santa Cruz Island. Concerns regarding disease are being raised on Santa Rosa and Santa Catalina. Wild fire appeared as a new threat, while public education became vital in helping to reduce an old threat - vehicular trauma. This past year demonstrated how fragile island fox populations are and how important it is to monitor them for the earliest signs of threats that could be catastrophic.

A Glance at the Numbers
There still is a long way to go to reach normal population numbers, but island foxes are increasing in number on all islands.


Southern Islands:

San Nicolas Island (~506 foxes in the wild)
Island fox population studies were completed on San Nicolas Island. All foxes handled had blood drawn and were given identification microchips. Some individuals were vaccinated against distemper and rabies viruses. The San Nicolas Island fox subspecies has shown a slight increase in population and has the highest density for any of the islands - 18 individuals per square kilometer in the coastal dune area. The population appears stable and there is no indication of widespread disease.

On a positive note: In previous years as many as 20-25 island foxes lost their lives to vehicular trauma. Education programs and fox-warning signs have dramatically decreased car-related fatalities. In 2007, only 2 known and 1 possible island fox death were the result of car strikes.

San Clemente Island (~450 foxes in the wild; 11 - in captivity in mainland zoos)
The territories of 71 radio-collared foxes were studied. Foxes that stayed away from roads had a greater survival rate than those that traveled along the roads. While education programs and signs have helped reduce fox deaths related to car strikes, studies are being done to see if more foxes are hit in specific areas where drivers have less visibility.

On a positive note: Fox fatalities due to cars have numbered only 6 for the first half of 2007. This is a dramatic drop from the 55 fatalities in 2005 and 35 in 2006. During this research, island foxes were observed eating prickly pear cactus fruit. A food item not previously known to be part of their diet.

In mainland Zoos, there are currently ten male island foxes and one female. Unfortunately, all offspring born in the zoos have been male. An island fox was born at the Santa Barbara Zoo April 2007. For more: see new pup and hear an update on our Fox Talk podcast.

Santa Catalina Island (~509 foxes in the wild, 1 in captivity)
The Santa Catalina population continues to recover from the near-catastrophic decline of 1999-2000 and island fox density has increased to 3.31 per square kilometer (compare that to San Nicolas Island above). New challenges to fox recovery are cancerous tumors of the ear and wild fire. The Catalina Island Conservancy is working with the Institute for Wildlife Studies (IWS) and the University of California at Davis to culture the ear mites that appear linked to cancerous ear tumors. All island foxes caught are being closely examined. It is unknown whether the ear mites are being transferred to foxes from feral cats, are specific to Catalina, are the cause of the cancer, or if inflammation caused by irritation from the mites is uniquely causing cancer in this fox subspecies. Further study is needed to understand the connection between the ear mites and the growing percentage of foxes with cancerous tumors. Currently, 44% of the population is showing signs of this disease. It is a very high percentage and analogous to the facial cancer that is threatening the Tasmanian devil.

One island fox was injured, but no island foxes are known to have perished in the wild fire that affected 10% of the island (4,750 acres). For more on the Catalina Fire. Friends of the Island Fox donated funds for radio collars for 5 foxes in the fire area including the injured female fox that was released back into the wild on July 11, 2007.

On a positive note: Over 87% of the island foxes on Santa Catalina have now been vaccinated for canine distemper. Public education and a “pet policy” for the island’s interior have helped to decrease the number of island foxes being killed by domestic dogs. Ten roadside fox-warning signs and a speed-feedback machine in a high fox-density area have helped reduce fox fatalities due to car strikes to just 5 for the first half of 2007. The City of Avalon has formed an Animal Task Force to actively address the feral cat population. New GPS tracking collars are being tried on 10 foxes in the burn area and 10 outside of the burn area to track day-to-day movement.

Northern Islands:

Santa Cruz Island (~260 foxes in the wild, 33 in captivity)
Fall 2006, 56 Santa Cruz island foxes were released back into the wild. Released foxes were recaptured 1-2 weeks later to check on their health and none needed to be returned to captivity. 73 foxes were radio collared. While the initial island fox numbers were up on Santa Cruz Island, spring 2007 turned out to be a very dangerous time, especially for island foxes born in captivity. After nearly a year without a death due to golden eagle predation, it is believed a single golden eagle killed 21 foxes on Santa Cruz Island in a few weeks. Most of the caught foxes were young adults that had been born in captivity. As of the Fox Conference, biologists on Santa Cruz Island were still searching for the golden eagle, with hopes of catching it and relocating it back to the mainland.

On a positive note: All 5,036 feral pigs on Santa Cruz Island appear to have been removed; there has been no sign of a pig since January 2007. Without the food source provided by the pigs there will be less motivation for the golden eagle to stay on the island. Captive breeding of island foxes will continue on Santa Cruz and more releases are hoped to occur later in the year.

Santa Rosa Island (total ~40 foxes in the wild; 37 in captivity)
Island foxes continue to be released into the wild. There have been no deaths due to golden eagles since spring 2006, but several foxes have died from unusual illnesses and injuries from other foxes. The National Park Service plans to maintain 12 individuals at a breeding facility for several more years, but will be releasing the others.

On a positive note: Foxes in the wild on Santa Rosa have been reproducing at high rates.

San Miguel Island (80 foxes in the wild; 2 in captivity)
From the most endangered population, with only 15 surviving individuals, the island foxes on San Miguel are making a strong recovery. In November 2006, 16 foxes were released back into the wild. Watch one of the fox releases on San Miguel Island. Foxes as young as one year old are becoming parents, resulting in 32 pups being born in the wild in 2006. There have been no fox deaths caused by golden eagles in 16 months.

On a positive note: Because the San Miguel Island foxes are doing so well in the wild, ALL releasable individuals will be returned to the wild. (Two elderly females will be cared for at the breeding facility.) The last captive San Miguel Island fox is scheduled to be released July 31, 2007. This marks a milestone in helping this population recover from near extinction. Stay tuned for our next Fox Talk and report on the release from Tim Coonan.

New Insights:

- In 2006, the greatest survival threat to the island fox was vehicular trauma. 35% of known island fox deaths last year were car related. The efforts to reduce incidents with cars are vitally important.

- Monitoring island foxes in the wild is imperative to maintaining healthy populations and the ability of biologists to respond quickly to fox survival threats, whether those threats are introduced predators or disease. Radio telemetry collars are being placed on as many island foxes as possible. Other monitoring methods were also discussed:
  1. Automated telemetry systems that would sweep the island picking up signal from all foxes on a daily basis and reporting to a single terminal. Man hours would be reduced but hardware cost is unknown.
  2. Noninvasive fecal genotyping was presented by Melissa Gray, a UCLA graduate student. Even in the small San Miguel population, DNA markers can be found that allow individuals to be identified from DNA in their scat. Collecting the scat, recording locations and correlating the DNA can provide information on an individual fox’s movements in a way that is noninvasive to the individual animal.
To read the complete Summary of the “NINTH ANNUAL MEETING ISLAND FOX WORKING GROUP” with access to some of the participants presentations go to http://californiaislands.org/_wsn/page3.html


Friends of the Island Fox, Inc. strongly supports all of the conservation efforts by the various biologists and organizations working on behalf of the island fox. Our goal is to make the community at large aware of the island fox’s situation and to help all of these positive efforts to Save the Island Fox.

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