VENTURA (CBSLA.com) — A once nearly-extinct species is now flourishing in the six largest islands in the Channel Islands system.
Channel Island foxes were nearly extinct as recently in the late 1990s. The tiny foxes, which are between three and six pounds and only 12 inches tall, nearly died out due to a disease called canine distemper and hunting by golden eagles.
“We lost 95 percent due to disease in under a year,” Biologist Julie King said.
To reverse the decline of the Channel Island fox population, a team of nearly 200 scientists, zookeepers, vets and volunteers went to work – relocating the golden eagles and other predators and capturing the foxes to vaccinate them. The team also began a breeding project.
“In 2002, we had no foxes in the wild. In 2010, we had over 500 in the wild,” said Robert McMorran, an island fox biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A recovery plan is now in place, which serves as a road map to protect the foxes should they ever be in danger again. The four island fox subspecies remain on the endangered species list, but the recovery plan and reviews could warrant reclassification or removal from the list within a year.