Channel Island foxes removed from the endangered species list

August 11, 2016, 5:45 p.m.

The endangered Channel Island fox has made an amazing recovery from near extinction and in record time. These tiny foxes live on the chain of small islands just off the California coast. When non-native golden eagles began feasting on the foxes and an outbreak of distemper hit one population, their outlook was grim. But a decade of efforts has brought the foxes back.

Two of the subspecies, the San Miguel Island fox and the Santa Rosa Island fox were down to a mere 15 individuals each. They now number about 577 and 894 respectively. The Santa Cruz Island fox and the Santa Catalina Island fox are back up to 1,354 and 1,852 individuals. With such a fantastic rebound of their numbers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has removed three of the four subspecies from the endangered species list entirely. The agency also upgraded the status of the Santa Catalina Island fox from “endangered” to “threatened,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

"Because they evolved separately on the islands for 16,000 years, these adorable little foxes are some of the only carnivores endemic to California,” said Jeff Miller with the center. “They were on the brink of extinction just 12 years ago when they were protected under the Endangered Species Act. Now, thanks to successful reintroduction and recovery efforts, numbers of foxes are way up and threats have been reduced."

Though the populations of Channel Island foxes must still be monitored and protected from threats, the rate at which they have recovered is an incredible success story, and one that offers inspiration and hope for other species facing extinction.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated with more recent information.

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