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Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725
Today, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Park Service (NPS) announce the release to the wild of 23 endangered island foxes from their captive rearing facilities on Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands.
Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Russell Galipeau said, “Our primary goal is to restore natural populations of island fox. Releasing foxes to the wild will increase their long-term chances for survival.”
For the past five years the NPS has been implementing recovery actions on Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands to save the island foxes, including captive breeding of foxes and removal of golden eagles. The NPS and The Nature Conservancy began captive breeding of island foxes on Santa Cruz Island in 2002.
Over the next three weeks, 10 island foxes on San Miguel Island and 13 on Santa Rosa Island will be released to the wild. The foxes will be returned to captivity if three of the 10 on San Miguel Island or five of the 13 foxes on Santa Rosa Island are killed or injured by golden eagles. Releases from captivity on Santa Cruz will not occur this year.
Last year six foxes were successfully released to the wild on Santa Rosa Island. Two of these released foxes bred in the wild, producing a litter of two female pups. These were the first pups born in the wild on Santa Rosa Island since 2000.
The foxes on Santa Cruz Island are thought to be at greater risk because they are in close proximity to golden eagle territories. This past winter, five of nine foxes released on Santa Cruz were killed by golden eagles and four were returned to captivity.
Since 1999, 35 golden eagles have been removed from Santa Cruz Island and two from Santa Rosa Island. Six golden eagles, three adults, and three nestlings, were removed from the island in 2004. Today less than 10 remain. There have been no golden eagle sightings on San Miguel in the past year and none on Santa Rosa since March.
The foxes will be released as groups of juveniles and as pairs of potential mates. They were chosen for release based on genetics, age, and reproductive success. All released foxes will have radio collars, and staff biologists will monitor their activity patterns, dispersal, and use of habitats on the island.