Island fox makes a remarkable comeback from near extinction

Meet the ‘dwarf’ fox! Living on the Channel Islands off the coast of California, by the 90’s their population size dropped from thousands to literally just 15 on one island.

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© National Parks Service

But why? It all started with exposure to (now banned) DDT. The insecticide washed into the ocean, contaminating the bald eagle’s main food source and killing them off. This left the area open to a new bird of prey, the golden eagle, which developed a taste for the delightful small fox. As their numbers dwindled lower they were added to the critically endangered species list. Something needed to be done before they went extinct. Through extreme conservation efforts, golden eagles were slowly captured and relocated to the mainland, while captive-breeding programs were instituted to increase the number of foxes.

“The last golden eagle pair was really tricky to get because they had seen all their buddies get captured,” says Christie Boser of the Nature Conservancy.

Bald eagles have been reintroduced to the islands and in a few short years, the fox populations have risen to 500-1,300 on various islands. Amazing!

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© National geographic

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