The Channel Islands are one of the least visited national parks and home to the fastest recovery effort of a mammal on the endangered species list in U.S. history. In the mid 1990’s, Island Fox populations started to decline and in 2004 they were added to the endangered species list.
After years of chemical companies dumping DDT, an agricultural pesticide, off the coast of California into the Pacific ocean, wildlife on and around the Channel Islands are still seeing the environmental impacts, including the Island Fox.
Species of fish, birds and mammals have been negatively impacted for decades after Montrose Chemical Corp. dumped millions of pounds of DDT off the coast from the late 1940’s to the early 1970’s. Fish in the surrounding area were contaminated by the pesticide which led to a decline in Bald Eagle populations, who depended on the fish for a source of food.
In turn, Golden Eagle populations around The Channel Islands spiked, due to their preferred diet of foxes and pigs over fish. The Golden Eagles were free to prey on the Island Fox without interference from the larger Bald Eagle.
Years of trapping and monitoring foxes as well as reintegration of the Bald Eagle and the facilitation of native plant species has led to success for the Island Fox. Thanks to the efforts of biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and The National Park Service, these small foxes were removed from the endangered species list in 2016.
Now, there are more than 7,000 Island Foxes that inhabit six out of eight of the Channel Islands.
Here are some interesting facts about these foxes that are exclusively native to the Channel Islands, according to the National Park Service.
1. The Island Fox is the only carnivore unique to California.
2. Island Foxes use facial expression and body posture to show different behaviors like dominance or submission.
3. Comparable to the size of a house cat, the Island Fox weighs four to five pounds and is significantly smaller than other foxes.
4. These small foxes have no natural predators, allowing them to roam freely during the day, unlike nocturnal gray foxes.
5. Even though the Island Fox is quite small, it’s the largest native terrestrial mammal on the Channel Islands.