Conservation Spotlight
Channel Island Fox Recovery Efforts

Julia A. Parker
Animal Keeper/National Park Service Volunteer, Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens, 500 Ninos Drive, Santa Barbara, CA
93103; (805) 962-5339 x51 phone; (805) 962-1673 fax


The Channel Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis) is endemic to six of the Channel Islands off the coast of
California. Archaeological evidence suggests that the island fox inhabited three of the northern
Islands approximately 16,000 years ago when they were a connected land mass known as Santarosae.
In 1994, fox populations were estimated at 6,000 on six of the eight Channel Islands. San Miguel,
Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz Islands in the north and San Nicholas, San Clemente, and Santa Catalina
Islands in the south. The number of foxes on San Miguel Island fell from 450 in 1994 to 15 by 1999.
This instigated the formation of an ad hoc recovery team, a group of scientists and naturalists
brought together by the Channel Islands National Park. At the same time, the foxes on San Clemente
Island were identified as a predator on the loggerhead shrike, a federally protected avian species
that nests on that island. Wildlife biologists and natural resource specialists from the Department of
the Navy on San Clemente Island sought to alleviate predation pressures on the bird by relocating
12 of the foxes. In March 1999, the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens received two pairs of foxes
for exhibit. The fox is an ideal education and conservation species with its only native habitat in our
back yard, the Channel Islands. The ability to increase and share our knowledge about the fox was
the start of a conservation effort in partnership with the National Park Service and other dedicated
specialists to save the fox from extinction.