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NPR’s Skunk Bear: The Recovery of the Channel Island Fox

NPR’s series Skunk Bear features the recovery of the Channel Island Fox and the threats that almost led them to extinction.

Off the coast of Southern California, there are eight islands that make up the Channel Islands Archipelago. Six of those islands are home to their own subspecies of Channel Island Fox. These small foxes only weigh about 4lbs but are the apex predators of their native ecosystems.

In the 1990’s, fox populations dropped dramatically on all of the islands. On Santa Cruz Island, this was a due to the invasive Golden Eagles and feral pigs. On San Nicolas Island, the foxes were threatened largely due to the introduction of diseases found in domesticated dogs and feral cats that competed with foxes for food and resources. 

Luckily, in the early 2000’s conservationists stepped in to help these small foxes. In 2010, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Island Conservation, Institute for Wildlife Studies, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Montrose Settlement Restoration Program completed the removal and relocation of feral cats from San Nicolas Island. At this same time, the Nature Conservancy and their partners worked to restore the Santa Cruz Island population. 

In 2016, the Channel Island Fox was removed from the Endangered Species List and became the fastest recovering species to ever be listed. Now, native foxes are thriving but researchers are still keeping an eye on their populations to ensure the Channel Island Fox will continue to thrive. 

Watch the video to learn more about the recovery of the Channel Island Fox on Santa Cruz Island. 

Featured photo: San Nicolas Island Fox on San Nicolas Island, CA. Credit: Island Conservation/Rory Stansbury 

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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