The island foxes that had been the prey for golden eagles were successfully saved from extinction through sustained conservation efforts.
The Channel Islands from California were repopulated by the three subspecies of foxes, all due to the efforts made by the US government.
The Island Foxes
The island foxes started to disappear in the 1990s, because of the golden eagles that were brought along by the pigs introduced by first settlers on the islands.
The small foxes arrived on the islands thousands of years ago, because of they found an environment abundant in lizards and mice. Then, the humans came to the islands. Their escaped pigs are drawn the golden eagles to the islands, which started to feed off the foxes.
A fox ecologist explains that the creatures have a naive and cute personality, which as appealing as it may be to humans, makes them easy prey for golden eagles.
The island foxes had been hard hit by the distemper epidemic and by the local predators. In Santa Rosa, the population dropped from 1,780 to only 15, whereas on San Miguel, the number of foxes went from 450 to 15.
The Revival of the Population
The Department of the Interior said that this was the fastest recovery of an endangered species so far, and a demonstration of the power of collaboration.
A study from 2004 showed that the animals were in 50% danger of going extinct in just ten years. Therefore, the foxes had been added to the List of Endangered Species Act.
In their efforts to save the foxes, the Nature Conservancy and National Park Service started to draft a shared program to intervene.
The wildlife experts bred foxes in captivity and removed their natural predators. They also moved away the feral pigs and reintroduced the bald eagles, in the absence of which the golden eagles had dominated the territory on the islands.
Then, the three species of foxes had been reintroduced in the islands of Santa Catalina, San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz.
In the present, there are 700 foxes brought on Miguel Island and 1,200 more on Santa Rosa. Santa Cruz has a population of 2,100 animals.
The island foxes will be de-listed as an endangered species, being the 37th species that managed to pass the threshold. The wildlife experts hope to continue the use of the same model to help other species regain their old population numbers.
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