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San Nicolas Island
Native populations of Critically Endangered Island Foxes, Island Night Lizards, Brandt's Cormorants, and other species can now reclaim their island island home

San Nicolas Island, located 61 miles due west of Los Angeles, is the most remote of the eight islands in the Channel Island Archipelago. Six of the eight islands in the Channel Islands Archipelago are home to a unique fox subspecies found nowhere else in the world. At 14,569-acres, San Nicolas supports a large and healthy population of this island fox (listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

The island is also home to numerous species found exclusively in the Channel Islands, including at least 25 invertebrates, 16 plant species, one reptile, three birds, and two mammals. Several at-risk species inhabit the island, including the San Nicolas Island Fox, Western Snowy Plover, and Island Night Lizard. San Nicolas supports three rare native vegetation communities, important seabird colonies and is surrounded by a spectacular marine and intertidal environment teeming with Harbor Seals, California Sea Lions, Southern Sea Otters, and Northern Elephant Seals.

Howling winds, extremes of temperature, and torrential storms have created a tough environment on the island, and native life is adapted to these rugged conditions – but not to the presence of non-native, invasive feral cats. For years, feral cats competed with foxes for food and resources, and directly preyed on seabirds and lizards.

Island Conservation’s Role:

In 2009, Island Conservation, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Institute for Wildlife Studies, and the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program began relocating feral cats from San Nicolas to a permanent sanctuary on mainland California in an effort to protect native species. Island Conservation and our partners employed cutting-edge technology that helped make the project a success. An extensive field trap monitoring system was deployed, which enabled staff to quickly respond to sprung traps. Field staff utilized rugged pocket computers loaded with GPS and GIS capabilities to record data, locations, and track our coverage of the island. Field data were analyzed daily, resulting in real-time analysis of progress made during the project.

This conservation action provides the opportunity for habitat and native species to recover.  Today, native populations of Critically Endangered Island Foxes and Brandt’s Cormorants are no longer at risk of competition and direct predation, and no sign of feral cats has been detected since June 2010. The island’s native plants and animals are on a path to recovery. 
 
Learn more about the current (and cat-free!) state of the island here
Critically Endangered San Nicolas Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis dickeyi) on San Nicolas Island, CA
Brandt's Cormorants (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) on San Nicolas Island, CA


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