Friday, August 12, 2016

California Fox Makes Fastest Endangered Species Recovery

A diminutive California fox, near the brink of extinction just 12 years ago, is being removed from the endangered species list. It’s the fastest recovery of any mammal on the list, according to federal wildlife officials. The Channel Islands fox is only found on six islands off the Southern California coast, with each island home to its own subspecies of fox. “The island foxes are very cute,” says Christina Boser, an ecologist with the Nature Conservancy who helped with the fox recovery.  “They’re only about four pounds and they’ve got these beautiful expressive eyes.” Island fox numbers plummeted after a cascade of human impacts. Early ranchers brought non-native pigs to the island. At the same time, the native bald eagle population crashed because of the pesticide DDT.  With no eagle competition, golden eagles began arriving from the California mainland, finding an abundant food source in both piglets and the tiny foxes. Only a few dozen foxes remained on three of the islands, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz. Ten years ago, a pig eradication effort began (causing a minor uproar). The golden eagles were relocated and bald eagles, which don’t eat foxes, returned to the islands. A captive breeding program for foxes also began. Today, the islands are home to several thousand foxes...more

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