The Channel Islands are home to four different subspecies of foxes that are found nowhere else in the world. Weighing just four to six pounds, the foxes are about 25% smaller those foxes found on the mainland. But in 1999, the foxes were facing extinction.
A distemper virus had caused the population on Catalina Island, which had numbered 1,300, to plummet all the way down to about 100. On the nearby islands of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz, the fox population was being decimated by bald eagles. Without a conservation effort, the fox would certainly die out. To combat the possibility, the Catalina Conservancy, among other groups, stepped in with a plan of "relocation, vaccinations, captive breeding and release, and wild fox population monitoring."
Another part of the effort was lowering the number of predatory golden eagles on the island. It was a two-pronged attack, one effort to capture and relocate the golden eagles (a protected species), and another to kill feral piglets that roamed the islands and initially attracted the eagles. This culling was not without controversy, and the basis of T.C. Boyle's novel When the Killing's Done.
But now, a mere 15 years after the effort began, the foxes may come off the endangered species list. One final study and discussion regarding their status has to take place before the final removal. If the removal is given the go ahead, it would mark the quickest recovery of an endangered animal species ever.
And now, for your enjoyment, some more photos of these cute, cute foxes!