Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

New Plan Will Help Tiny Foxes Continue Big Steps Toward Recovery

Sep 13, 2012



Robert McMorran, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office – 805-644-1766, ext. 232 or

Jane Hendron, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office – 760-431-9440 ext. 205


New Plan Will Help Tiny Foxes Continue Big Steps Toward Recovery

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released a Draft Recovery Plan for Four Subspecies of Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis) for public review and comment.  

The notice of availability for the draft recovery plan can be viewed today at the Federal Register public inspection page.  It will officially publish in the Federal Register on September 14, 2012, and comments will be accepted until November 13, 2012.

The island fox is the smallest fox in North America, weighing only 3-6 pounds and standing about as tall as a typical house cat. They feed on deer mice as well as crickets and other small invertebrates, and plants. These foxes inhabit 6 of the 8 islands that comprise the Channel Islands off the coast of southern California. The 6 populations are all subspecies that have adapted to the particular environments of their respective islands – San Miguel Island fox, Santa Rosa Island fox, Santa Cruz Island fox, Santa Catalina Island fox, San Clemente Island fox, and San Nicolas Island fox.

Based on dramatic population declines due to disease and predation, the Service listed the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa Catalina islands populations of foxes as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2004.

To address the immediate needs of the foxes to save them from extinction, the Service tapped the expertise of land managers for the respective islands as well as other conservation experts.  Dr. Devra Kleiman, a senior scientist emeritus at the National Zoo in Washington, and Dr. Linda Munson, a professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, shared their respective expertise in captive reproduction and carnivore pathology to help craft some of the successful recovery strategies for the island fox.

Both Dr. Kleiman and Dr. Munson passed away in 2010, but their efforts on behalf of the island fox are reflected in the efforts undertaken to recover these subspecies and both were instrumental in the development of the Draft Recovery Plan.

Past and ongoing actions to recover the species include: removing nonnative golden eagles from the northern Channel Islands to reduce the predation threat and removing the nonnative species that provided prey for the eagles; vaccinating foxes to protect them against canine distemper; breeding foxes in captivity and reintroducing them to the wild; monitoring wild island fox populations; and reintroducing bald eagles to deter golden eagles from re-establishing territories on the Channel Islands.

As a result of these strategies, the island fox subpopulations on the four islands have shown dramatic improvement.

Historic Island Fox Populations

Island Fox Populations at the Time of Listing

Island Fox Populations in 2011/2012

San Miguel Island = 450

San Miguel Island = 15

San Miguel Island = 393 (2011)

Santa Rosa Island = 1,780

Santa Rosa Island = 14

Santa Rosa Island = 280 (2011)

Santa Cruz Island = 1,450

Santa Cruz Island = 55

Santa Cruz Island = 1,302 (2011)

Santa Catalina Island = 1,300

Santa Catalina Island = 103

Santa Catalina Island = 1,542 (2012)

Recovery plans are entirely voluntary, long-range strategies to help protected species regain their natural health, with the ultimate goal of enabling them to be removed from protected status.

Copies of the Draft Recovery Plan are available online at, or

Comments may be submitted by mail or hand delivery to: Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, California 93003.  Comments may also be submitted electronically at  If you need additional information, please call the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office at 805-644-1766.

The ESA provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife and plants. This landmark conservation law has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species across the nation and promoted the recovery of many others.


A photo of the island fox is available at the Service’s Flickr site

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