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Endangered Fox Pups Born in the Wild

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Date: July 12, 2004
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725

For the first time in over four years, a pair of endangered Channel Island foxes have successfully bred and produced two young pups in the wild on Santa Rosa Island. The two new pups join the ranks of 9 pups which were born in a captive breeding facility on the island and they roam the island with 7 other released foxes now living in the wild.

“This is an exciting milestone“, says Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Russell Galipeau. “Santa Rosa had no foxes in the wild between 2000 and fall 2003, when we released the first foxes from the captive breeding facility. Having successful reproduction in the wild is a critical step in saving the island fox.”

The pair of adult foxes responsible for producing this litter sometime in April, were themselves released from captivity late last year. The male, a 4-year old, who had never successfully mated and produced young while in captivity, has played an important role in reproduction by providing both the female and pups with food. The 3-year old female who had not produced litters prior to this, has already weaned the two pups. The new pups have been seen out foraging for food, sustained on a diet of insects, native deer mice, birds, and fruits of various plants.

The breeding season recently ended on neighboring Santa Cruz Island with 19 pups added to the captive population of 25 foxes. These births raise the total captive population of island foxes to 44 on Santa Cruz, 50 on San Miguel, and 55 on Santa Rosa. Currently there are 9 foxes living in the wild on Santa Rosa Island, between 75 and 100 foxes in the wild on Santa Cruz Island, and no foxes in the wild on San Miguel Island.

The National Park Service, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy together are engaged in a comprehensive recovery program to save the island foxes by breeding them in captivity, relocating golden eagles, and eliminating nonnative feral pigs from Santa Cruz Island. Island foxes on the Northern Channel Islands have declined by over 95% since 1994. This past March the six subspecies of island fox were listed as federal endangered species by the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

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