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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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How Can You Help the Island Fox?

You don’t have to be on the Channel Islands to help the island fox and all of the wild creatures that live here in Southern California.

In September, volunteers from Friends of the Island Fox joined volunteers from the Channel Island Park Foundation to clean up trash on Santa Cruz Island. Through our joint efforts we picked up over 400 lbs. of debris that had washed up on the island or had been left behind by human activities.

Pieces of metal and glass pose a threat to the feet of wild animals. Fishing lures and cast off human items can be dangerous to island foxes. (See The Island Fox and The Fishing Hook)

Plastics that travel down gutters and storm drains to the sea are eaten by a wide range of animals. When these bits of plastic enter the food chain, they threaten not only animals, but humans as well. So the next time you see a piece of trash in the gutter or on the ground, don’t just walk on by. Stop and pick it up. Your simple act could save a young sea bird, a sea turtle or even an island fox.

Our thanks to the Island Fox Friends that participated in this year’s clean-up: Bob Colli, Keri Dearborn, Betty Dunbar, Michael Lawshé, Jerry Leach, Gerri Martin, Pat Meyer and Mary Renaker.

A special thank you to Carol Pillsbury of the Channel Island Park Foundation and Russell Galipeau of Channel Islands National Park for including FIF in this important event.


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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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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Island Fox Goes to School

March through May is a busy time for island foxes, biologists, and Friends of the Island Fox.

Spring brings fox pups that need to be fed by their parents and counted by biologists in the field. It also is the time for Earth Day events.

For the second year, Friends of the Island Fox participated in the Rio Vista Elementary School Environmental Awareness and Career Day. FIF educators introduced fourth grade students to the island fox, a local endangered species. Students participated in a hands-on activity replicating an island fox health check. They became field biologists weighing, evaluating and recording health data. (More on island fox health checks)

Education can be exciting and fun. Check out Rio Vista Elementary's exciting event on Santa Clarita Valley TV


The first step in saving an endangered species is educating the local community. Education can come in a variety of approaches, activities and interactions. Friends of the Island Fox is devoted to educating the public, young and old, in creative and relevant ways. The more you know about the island fox, the better neighbor you can be to this endangered species.

To contact Friends of the Island Fox about classroom or community programs:
(805) 386-0386

admin@islandfox.org or islandfoxnews@gmail.com

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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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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ask About the Island Fox

Friends of the Island Fox offers FREE programs about the endangered island fox and the Channel Island ecosystem to school children from 3rd grade through college. Depending on participant age and group size, programs include interactive program, video of an island fox release, radio-collar tracking demonstration and hands-on materials.

To schedule a classroom visit or speaker, contact us at islandfoxnews@gmail.com

As we all go Back to School, here are a few questions we have received from students.

1. How long do island foxes live?

Island foxes typically live eight to ten years in the wild. While they are not considered to be adults until age two, in some cases they do form mate pairs and have their first family before they are a year old. When wild foxes are examined by biologists, the wear and condition of the island fox’s teeth help the biologist determine the animal’s age.

2. Can an island fox hurt a person?

The island fox is a very small member of the dog family. Their average weight is only 5 pounds and they stand just over a foot tall. They do have sharp, pointed teeth for eating insects and hunting mice and birds, but an island fox is more likely to run from people than to threaten them. An island fox will try to protect its home territory from other foxes. Some foxes have scars from territory struggles with other foxes. Island foxes sometimes bark at intruders. See the Video of a barking island fox.

3. Can an island fox handle the snow in the winter?

It rarely snows on the California Channel Islands in the winter. The ocean that surrounds the islands helps to keep the weather mild. However, it can be cold, foggy and very windy on the Channel Islands at times. Being small helps the island fox stay out of the wind and their fur is short and thick to help keep them warm. In the fog, this island fox pup's gray coat helps it blend in against the dry summer plants and the island rocks.

Do you have a question about the California Channel Island fox?

Send your questions to islandfoxnews@gmail.com

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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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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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Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Island Fox has Friends

If you have seen the Island Fox San Miguel Island 2006 Release video, you have heard the original music of David Lynch.

David’s guitar solos add heart and bounce to the video. One of the themes used in the video has currently climbed to #8 of 2,480 on the Neil Young website for original music. You can help David climb even higher in the ranking by placing your vote for the song "Mahatma"at: neilyoung.com

Complete versions of
David Lynch’s music can be found on his CD “Dozen” available through his website.
David Lynch

The video was also edited by island fox friend Michael Lawshe. Michael is nominated for a Golden Reel Award this Saturday, February 23 for his work as Sound Supervisor on Smallville. Check out his blog at Soundzgood.info

CLICK the picture to watch the video.

The photo at the top, was taken by Peter Pendergest.

Without help from friends like David, Michael and Peter we wouldn’t have a video of the island foxes to show the public or photos to post on our website. Friends of the Island Fox thanks them for their support of island fox conservation and appreciates their efforts to get involved in helping to 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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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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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Island Fox Born at Santa Barbara Zoo

(photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Zoo)

Spring is pupping season for the endangered Channel island foxes and each birth is a celebration. While we are waiting to hear how many pups were born out on the islands, the Santa Barbara Zoo happily announced the birth of a new island fox.

The male pup was born April 12, 2007, to a pair of older parents from San Clemente Island. The mother was unable to nurse the tiny pup and therefore it is being handreared by the Santa Barbara Zoo staff.

Fitting in the palm of your hand, the pup weighed only two ounces at birth–less than 2 AA batteries. Staff members attended to feedings six times a day, 24 hours a day, and the pup quickly doubled its weight.

As of Thursday June 7, the latest update is...

“It seemed like he was perhaps premature when he was born and a bit undersized. But within a month or so, he caught up to where he needed to be. He now weighs 1.4 pounds. He still gets two bottles of formula a day but has teeth and is eating solids. He receives our omnivore diet, like the other Island foxes we have, which is a canine mix, sort of like dog chow. We supplement that with small chunks of various vegetables and with baby food (chicken and rice, vegetables with turkey, turkey dinner). We are happy that he’s doing so well and heading towards normal development. We will soon start giving him some time and exposure with our male fox whose mate died recently. Hopefully, they can be companions.”

Currently this brings the total number of island foxes in Zoos to 12. Where can you visit a zoo with island foxes.

Alan Varsik, Director of Animal Programs and Conservation at the Santa Barbara Zoo and FIF board member, adds “The birth of this pup will further enhance our ability to continue to tell the conservation story of the island fox and the unique and special habitat that it lives in.”

Captive breeding has played an important role is reestablishing island fox populations. What is captive breeding? Animal management protocol developed at the Santa Barbara Zoo and other zoo facilities has helped provide valuable information on how to keep island foxes safe and healthy in captive environments.

Working together zoos and conservation land managers are saving this endangered species. Friends of the Island Fox supports their efforts and works with them to educate the public about the island fox and its unique habitat, the Channel Islands.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fire Foxes - Catalina Island Fox Update

Early reports on island foxes surviving the Catalina Island fire are very hopeful.

Ann Muscat of the Catalina Island Conservancy

“Habitat damage is extensive and will require further
analysis. There is no obvious loss of larger wildlife (eagle chicks in nest, deer, bison, foxes). Our staff was able to fly over the Island and monitor for 48 radio-collared foxes and all signals were picked up. This is very good news. Foxes are in the pupping season, however, and staff are now surveying the burn area for females in their dens to see if pups are surviving. A number of iron wood and oak groves were lost, but until we can overlay our vegetation maps onto the fire area, we will not know the full extent of the loss of rare and endangered plant species.”

Julie King, Senior Wildlife Biologist, Catalina Island Conservancy adds the following fox details about four foxes that were sighted in the burn area. Three were non-injured, but one female fox with “severe burns to all four paws, severe dehydration and malnutrition” was captured. The “fox is being treated in the Middle Ranch Veterinary Clinic under the direction of Institute for Wildlife Studies veterinarian Dr. Winston Vickers. An additional fox was captured in the process, a large healthy male, was given a workup, fitted with a radio collar and released at the location of capture.”

As of Saturday, May 26, 2007:

We'll be setting traps all weekend to get a better assessment of potential injuries in the burn area. I'll be sure to keep you updated if we get any additional injuries. On a happy note, the fox we are treating is responding very well to treatment. When caught, she was only 1.2kg and she's now up to 1.7kg. She's eating well and so far there is no sign of infection in her paws. It has only been 5 days, but her feet do appear to be slowly healing. She has a long road ahead of her, but she's doing much better than we had initially expected. Dr. Vickers will be out on June 4th to do an assessment. - Julie King

As the information from the Catalina fire area becomes available we will post it here. Friends of the Island Fox is rallying our resources to see what we can do to help the Catalina island foxes. These island fox survivors of the fire need our support more than ever.

Photos of the Catalina Island fire

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Friends of the Island Fox Supports Integrated Fox Conference

Saving the endangered island fox requires the efforts of caring and knowledgeable individuals from around the country. The Integrated Fox Conference brings all of these people together once a year.

The third week in June, biologists and scientists will meet with conservation professionals and land managers for each of the Channel Islands to report on the current status of all six subspecies of island fox and to make conservation decisions for the upcoming year.

To support the efforts of the Integrated Fox Conference, this year Friends of the Island Fox is providing a grant to the U. S. National Park Service to help offset the transportation costs of the four veterinarians that provide care to the foxes on the islands and who do veterinary laboratory work during the year. These devoted people help maintain the health of island foxes and move quickly when disease threatens this endangered population.
  • Karl Hill, DVM - Santa Barbara Zoo
  • Karen Blumenshine, DVM - Wildlife Services Associates
  • Winston Vickers, DVM - Institute for Wildlife Studies
  • Linda Munson, DVM-PMI - University of California, Davis
The Integrated Fox Conference is sure to bring to light unexpected successes and new conservation challenges regarding the island fox. FIF will post a summary of the Conference, including an update on the status of island foxes on Catalina Island after the fire.

FIF thanks all of you who have donated toward island fox conservation during the first half of 2007. Your contributions have made this grant possible.

See last year’s
  • Highlights from the Integrated Fox Conference, June 20-22, 2006Highlights 2006
  • Mid year population UPDATE

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Island Fox Festival at Los Angeles Zoo

Come out and support island fox conservation at:

The 4th Annual Island Fox Festival

Saturday May 19th at
the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens

Friends of the Island Fox will be helping the L.A. Zoo celebrate the island fox at this day-long event.

Special Activities and Presentations will take place from 10 AM - 4 PM

There will be:
  • A Keeper Talk at the Island Fox exhibit and an Enrichment Presentation
  • Friends of the Island Fox “Fox Talks” throughout the day
  • Fox Radio-Tracking demonstrations
  • Fox Crafts & Conservation Activities
  • Face Painting and more

All activities are included in general admission to the Zoo.

Come out, enjoy a day at the Zoo and meet an island fox. Stop by the FIF booth and say, “Hello.”

Educators and Group leaders: FIF representatives will have information on how you can have Friends of the Island Fox come and give a FREE presentation at your school or community group. We are also looking for enthusiastic schools and groups to participate in our Fox Ambassador Program.

Why is this toy island fox wearing an actual island fox radio collar?

Island foxes need radio collars before they are returned to the wild. Click here for more on Radio Collars and how you can help.

Current Update on the Griffith Park Fire: As of 4 PM 5/9/07 - All is well at the Zoo. All animals are safe and the greatest danger appears to be past. For the most up-to-date information go to www.lazoo.org

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Six Islands, Six Different Island Foxes

Island foxes are found on six of the eight Channel Islands off the coast of southern California.
(Where does the island fox live? What is an island fox? Experiencing Santa Cruz Island )

A pair of San Clemente island foxes at the Santa Barbara Zoo. (Where can you see an island fox?)

Island foxes all have similar lifestyles and habits:
  • About the island fox
  • Males consistently weigh more than females
  • What do island foxes eat? Their favorite food is the deer mouse. (Each island has its own subspecies of deer mouse.)
  • Island foxes are good climbers, which allows them to reach bird nests and eggs
  • Island fox pups are born in the spring. Island foxes usually have 2-3, but may have as many as 5 pups

But the foxes on each island are slightly different from each other. The differences are great enough that each island has its own subspecies of island fox.

National Park Service biologist Tim Coonan points out that the San Miguel island fox weighs significantly more than the island foxes on the neighboring island of Santa Rosa.

A San Miguel island fox being fitted for a radio collar.

A pair of Santa Rosa island foxes. (Experiencing Santa Rosa Island)

Tail length is a specific physical trait that varies between the different subspecies. Studies show island foxes from different islands have more or less tail vertebra.

In descending order:
  1. San Nicolas Island 22 tail vertebra
  2. Santa Catalina Island 21 tail vertebra
  3. San Clemente Island 19 tail vertebra
  4. Santa Rosa Island 19 tail vertebra
  5. Santa Cruz Island 19 tail vertebra
  6. San Miguel Island 15 tail vertebra
Between the shortest-tailed island foxes on San Miguel Island and the longest tailed on San Nicolas Island there is a difference of 7 vertebra. Interestingly, Schoenherr, Feldmeth and Emerson point out in Natural History of the Islands of California (Univ. of California Press 1999) that the island foxes on San Nicolas Island appear to have the least amount of genetic diversity. This suggests the San Nicolas population may be descended from as few as a single pair of foxes.

All of the island fox populations are vulnerable because they live in such limited habitats. Small population numbers mean that a single introduction of a disease, like the canine distemper outbreak on Santa Catalina Island, can threaten an entire island fox population. (Santa Catalina island fox Update) Catastrophic events, like the arrival of an unexpected predator–the golden eagle–can cause near extinction.

The island foxes on San Miguel Island were reduced to only 15 individuals because of predation by golden eagles. This genetic bottleneck means future San Miguel Island foxes will be more genetically alike than they were in the past.

Conservation and research efforts are necessary across the islands to preserve and protect the six subspecies of island foxes.

Donations to Friends of the Island Fox supports conservation and education efforts to Help Save all six subspecies of island fox. See how your donations can make a difference.

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