[Federal Register: December 10, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 237)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 63654-63665]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AI28

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing the San 
Miguel Island Fox, Santa Rosa Island Fox, Santa Cruz Island Fox, and 
Santa Catalina Island Fox as Endangered

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose 
endangered status pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (Act) of 1973, 
as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), for four subspecies of island fox 
(Urocyon littoralis): San Miguel Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis 
littoralis), Santa Rosa Island Fox (U. l. santarosae), Santa Cruz 
Island Fox (U. l. santacruzae), and Santa Catalina Island Fox (U. l. 
catalinae). Island fox populations on these four islands have 
experienced precipitous declines since 1995. The three island fox 
subspecies inhabiting the northern Channel Islands (San Miguel, Santa 
Rosa, and Santa Cruz) have declined due to predation by golden eagles 
(Aquila chrysaetos). Island foxes on San Miguel and Santa Rosa islands 
have been effectively extirpated in the wild; captive breeding efforts 
are underway on both islands. On Santa Cruz Island, the island fox 
population decreased from 1,300 to less than 100 animals; captive 
breeding efforts on Santa Cruz will begin in the fall of 2001. The 
Santa Catalina Island fox population experienced a precipitous decline 
in 1999 as a result of an outbreak of canine distemper virus; fewer 
than 200 Santa Catalina Island foxes are thought to remain in the wild.

DATES: Comments from all interested parties must be received by 
February 8, 2002. Public hearing requests must be received by January 
24, 2002.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and 
materials concerning this proposal by any one of several methods.
    (1) You may submit written comments to the Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 
Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, California 93003.
    (2) You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to: 
    See the Public Comments Solicited section below for file format and 
other information about electronic filing.

[[Page 63655]]

    (3) You may hand-deliver comments to our office at 2493 Portola 
Road, Suite B, Ventura, California 93003.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Diane Noda, Field Supervisor, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, at the 
address above (telephone 805/644-1766; facsimile 805/644-3958).



    The island fox was first described as Vulpes littoralis by Baird in 
1857 from the type locality of San Miguel Island, Santa Barbara County, 
California. Merriam (1888, in Hall and Kelson 1959) reclassified the 
island fox into the genus Urocyon and later described island foxes from 
Santa Catalina, San Clemente, and Santa Cruz islands as three separate 
taxa (U. catalinae, U. clementae, and U. littoralis santacruzae) 
(Merriam 1903). Grinnell et al. 1937 revised Merriam's classification, 
placing foxes from all islands under the species U. littoralis and 
assigning each island population a subspecific designation (U. l. 
catalinae on Santa Catalina Island, U. l. clementae on San Clemente 
Island, U. l. dickeyi on San Nicolas Island, U. l. littoralis on San 
Miguel Island, U. l. santacruzae on Santa Cruz Island, and U. l. 
santarosae on Santa Rosa Island). Recent morphological and genetic 
studies support the division of the U. littoralis complex into six 
subspecies which are each limited in range to a single island (Gilbert 
et al. 1990; Wayne et al. 1991a; Collins 1991a, 1993; Goldstein et al. 
1999). Each subspecies is reproductively isolated from the others by a 
minimum of 5 kilometers (3 miles) of ocean waters. The island fox is 
closely related to the mainland gray fox, U. cinereoargenteus, but is 
smaller in size and darker in coloration (Moore and Collins 1995).
    The island fox is a diminutive canid, weighing approximately 1.4 to 
2.7 kilograms (3 to 6 pounds) and standing approximately 0.3 meters (1 
foot) tall. Dorsal coloration is grayish-white and black. The base of 
the ears and sides of the neck and limbs are cinnamon-rufous in color. 
The underbelly is a dull white, and the tail is conspicuously short. 
Island foxes display sexual size dimorphism, with males being larger 
and heavier than females (Moore and Collins 1995).
    Island foxes inhabit the six largest islands (San Miguel, Santa 
Rosa, Santa Cruz, San Nicolas, Santa Catalina, and San Clemente 
islands) off the coast of southern California. Genetic evidence 
suggests that all island foxes are descended from one colonization 
event (George and Wayne 1991), possibly from chance overwater dispersal 
by rafting on floating debris (Moore and Collins 1995). Fossil evidence 
indicates that island foxes inhabited the northern Channel Islands (San 
Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz) between 10,000 to 16,000 years ago 
(Orr 1968). However, island foxes are thought to have existed on the 
northern Channel Islands even before that time, during a period when 
Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel were one land mass referred to 
as ``Santarosae,'' last known to have been united 18,000 years before 
present (Johnson 1978, 1983). The island fox was thought to have 
reached the southern Channel Islands (San Nicolas, San Clemente, and 
Santa Catalina) much more recently (2,200 to 3,800 years ago), most 
likely introduced to these islands by Native Americans as pets or semi-
domesticates (Collins 1991a, b). However, island fox remains recently 
recovered from San Nicolas Island extend this time period to 
approximately 5,200 years before present (Vellanoweth 1998).
    Genetic evidence confirms the pattern of dispersal suggested by 
archeological and geological findings (Gilbert et al. 1990). The 
pattern of genetic relatedness supports the geological evidence of the 
sequence of isolation for each island, and each population, as rising 
sea levels separated Santarosae into the northern Channel Islands. 
Santa Cruz separated from the other northern Channel Islands first, 
about 11,500 years ago, followed by the separation of San Miguel and 
Santa Rosa about 9,500 years ago. Together with the fossil record, 
genetic evidence indicates that San Clemente was the first southern 
Channel Island colonized, probably by immigrants from San Miguel. 
Dispersal then occurred from San Clemente to San Nicolas and then Santa 
Catalina (Gilbert et al. 1990).
    Island forms of species generally have less genetic variability 
than their mainland counterparts (Gill 1980), and island foxes are no 
exception. Mainland gray foxes are more variable both morphologically 
and genetically than island foxes (Wayne et al. 1991b; Goldstein et al. 
1999). Island fox population size and genetic variability seem to 
decrease with island size; the smallest island fox populations, San 
Miguel and San Nicolas, show the least genetic variability, with San 
Nicolas having virtually no genetic variability, which is highly 
unusual among mammals. This lack of variability could be attributed 
either to extensive inbreeding, or to the population having passed 
through a bottleneck, a period of very low population (George and Wayne 
    The diminutive island fox is the largest native carnivore on the 
Channel Islands. The island fox is a habitat generalist, occurring in 
valley and foothill grasslands, southern coastal dunes, coastal bluff, 
coastal sage scrub, maritime cactus scrub, island chaparral, southern 
coastal oak woodland, southern riparian woodland, bishop (Pinus 
muricata) and torrey pine (Pinus torreyana) forests, and coastal marsh 
habitats. Although foxes can be found in a wide variety of habitats on 
the islands, they prefer areas of diverse topography and vegetation 
(Von Bloeker 1967; Laughrin 1977; Moore and Collins 1995). Laughrin 
(1973, 1980) found woodland habitats to support higher densities of 
island fox due to increased food availability, while Crooks and Van 
Vuren (1996) found island foxes to prefer fennel grasslands and avoid 
ravines and scrub oak patches.
    Island foxes are omnivores, taking a wide variety of seasonally 
available plants and animals (Collins and Laughrin 1979; Collins 1980; 
Kovach and Dow 1981; Moore and Collins 1995; Crowell 2001). Island 
foxes forage opportunistically on any food items encountered within 
their home range. Selection of food items is determined largely by 
availability, which varies by habitat and island, as well as seasonally 
and annually. Island foxes prey on native deer mice (Peromyscus 
maniculatus), as well as introduced house mice (Mus musculus) and rats 
(Rattus rattus). Small mammals may be especially important prey during 
the breeding season, because they are large, energy-rich food items 
that adult foxes can bring back to their growing pups (Garcelon et al. 
1999). In addition to small mammals, island foxes feed on ground-
nesting birds such as horned larks (Eremophila alpestris) and western 
meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta), and a wide variety of insect prey 
(Moore and Collins 1995). At certain times of the year, foxes feed 
heavily on orthopterans (e.g., grasshoppers and crickets) (Crooks and 
VanVuren 1995), especially Jerusalem crickets (Stenopelmatus fuscus). 
Less common in the diet are amphibians, reptiles, and carrion of marine 
mammals (Collins and Laughrin 1979). Island foxes feed on a wide 
variety of native plants, including the fruits of manzanita 
(Arctostaphylos spp.), summer holly (Comarostaphylis spp.), toyon 
(Heteromeles spp.), chollo cactus (Opuntia spp.), island cherry (Prunus 
ilicifolia), sumac (Rhus spp.), rose (Rosa spp.), nightshade (Solanum 
spp.), and huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.) (Moore and Collins 1995). 
Fruiting shrubs do not occur on San Miguel

[[Page 63656]]

Island, where island foxes rely more on the fruits of the low growing 
sea-fig, Carpobrotus chilensis.
    The island fox is a docile canid, exhibiting little fear of humans 
in many instances. Although primarily nocturnal, the island fox is more 
diurnal than the mainland gray fox (Collins and Laughrin 1979; Fausett 
1993). This is thought to be a result of the historical absence of 
large predators and freedom from human harassment on the islands 
(Laughrin 1977).
    Mated island foxes maintain territories that are separate from the 
territories of other pairs (Crooks and Van Vuren 1996; Roemer et al. 
2001a). Island fox home range size varies with sex, season, population 
density, landscape features, and habitat type (Laughrin 1977; Crooks 
and Van Vuren 1996; Thompson et al. 1998; Roemer et al. 2001a). 
Estimates of territory size range from 0.24 square kilometers 
(km2) (59 acres (ac)) in mixed habitat (Crooks and Van Vuren 
1996) and 0.87 km2 (214 ac) in grassland habitat (Roemer 
1999) on Santa Cruz Island, to 0.77 km2 (190 ac) in canyons 
on San Clemente Island (Thompson et al. 1998). Island fox territory 
configuration changes after the death and replacement of paired male 
foxes, but not after the death and replacement of paired females or 
juveniles, indicating that adult males are involved in territory 
formation and maintenance (Roemer et al. 2001a).
    Although island foxes appear monogamous, copulations with 
individuals other than the mate, and offspring as a result of those 
unions, are common (Roemer et al. 2001a). Courtship activities occur 
from late January to early March; genetic evidence suggests that 
inbreeding avoidance occurs (Roemer et al. 2001a). Recent endocrine 
assays on fecal samples from San Miguel Island indicate that, unlike 
all other canids studied to date, island foxes are induced rather than 
spontaneous ovulators (i.e., the presence of males is necessary in 
order for females to go into estrous) (Bauman et al. 2001). Young are 
born from late April through May after a gestation period of 
approximately 50 days. Island foxes give birth to their young in simple 
dens, which are usually not excavated by the foxes themselves (Moore 
and Collins 1995). Rather, any available sheltered site (e.g., brush 
pile, rock crevice, and hollow stump) is used (Laughrin 1977). Litter 
size ranges from one to five (average = 2.17). Both island fox care for 
the young (Garcelon et al. 1999). By 2 months of age, young foxes spend 
most of the day outside the den and will remain with their parents 
throughout the summer. Some pups disperse from their birth territories 
by winter, although others may stay on their natal territories into 
their second year (Coonan 2001). Island foxes can mate at the end of 
their first year (Collins and Laughrin 1979), although most breeding 
involves older animals. Coonan et al. (1998) found that only 16 percent 
of females under the age of 2 bred over a 5-year period, in contrast to 
60 percent of older females.
    Due to the low reproductive output of island foxes, survival of 
adults is the most important factor influencing population growth rate 
(Roemer et al. 1994; 2001a). Compared with the gray fox, island fox 
populations are skewed toward older adults (Laughrin 1980; Garcelon 
1988). Adult island foxes live an average of 4 to 6 years (Moore and 
Collins 1995), although this may be an underestimate (Coonan et al. 
    In the 1970s, island foxes were found at higher densities than any 
other canid species, likely due to the lack of competition and 
predation compared with the island foxes' mainland canid counterparts 
(Laughrin 1980). At the time of Laughrin's early studies, island fox 
populations were stable on all islands except Santa Catalina (Laughrin 
1973). Pre-decline trapping on Santa Cruz Island in 1993 and 1994 
reconfirmed that island foxes existed at high densities (Roemer et al. 
    San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa Catalina island foxes 
have experienced precipitous declines in the last 6 years (Coonan et 
al. 1998, 2000, and in review; Roemer 1999; Timm et al. 2000; Roemer et 
al. in press). Total island fox numbers rangewide have fallen from 
approximately 6,000 individuals (Roemer et al. 1994) to fewer than 
1,660 (Tim Coonan, Channel Islands National Park, pers. comm. 2001a). 
Island fox populations on San Miguel and Santa Cruz islands have 
declined by an estimated 80 to 90 percent and have a 50 percent chance 
of extinction over the next 5 to 10 years (Roemer 1999; Roemer et al. 
in press). During the period of decline, island fox population 
monitoring was not conducted on Santa Rosa Island; however, anecdotal 
observations and recent trapping efforts showed that a similar decline 
occurred for this subspecies as well (Roemer 1999; Coonan 2001). Island 
fox populations on the northern Channel Islands are considered 
critically endangered and in need of immediate conservation action 
(Coonan et al. 1998; Roemer 1999; Roemer et al. 2001b). On Santa 
Catalina, island foxes are now rare on the larger eastern portion of 
the island. This decline is thought to be a result of a canine 
distemper outbreak that swept through the population in 1999 (Timm et 
al. 2000).
    San Clemente and San Nicolas islands have island fox populations 
estimated at more than 500 and 738 individuals, respectively (D. 
Garcelon, unpublished data; Roemer 2000), although the San Nicolas 
estimate is likely an overestimate, as it did not factor in habitat 
suitability (Grace Smith, Department of the Navy, pers. comm. 2001). 
San Clemente Island has not experienced the sharp declines seen on 
other islands; however, 13 years of trapping data display a slow 
decline of island fox since the early 1990s (Garcelon 1999; D. 
Garcelon, unpublished data). Populations of the San Nicolas Island fox 
appear to be stable. However, its small population size (Roemer et al. 
1994), insular nature, lack of resistance to canine distemper and other 
diseases (Garcelon et al. 1992), high densities (Roemer 2000), and low 
genetic variability (Wayne et al. 1991a) increase the vulnerability of 
this subspecies (Roemer 1999). Protective measures have been put in 
place on these islands, such as implementing a wildfire management plan 
and feral cat management program and removing all feral ungulates, to 
prevent further decline of these two subspecies.

San Miguel Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis littoralis)

    The first quantitative surveys for island foxes on San Miguel 
Island were conducted by Laughrin in the early 1970s (Laughrin 1973). 
Trap efficiency was high (43 percent) and Laughrin concluded that 
island fox populations were stable at 2.7 foxes per km 2 (7 
foxes per square mile (mi 2)), although this may be an 
underestimate. In the late 1970s, the island foxes on San Miguel had an 
average density of 4.6 foxes per sq. km (12 foxes per mi 2) 
for a total estimated population of 151 to 498 individuals (Collins and 
Laughrin 1979). Island foxes on San Miguel Island were not surveyed 
again until the National Park Service (NPS) instituted a long-term 
population study in 1993 which recorded an average density of 7.7 foxes 
per sq. km (20 foxes per mi 2) on two trapping grids and 
estimated the total population at more than 300 foxes (Roemer et al. 
1994; Coonan et al. 1998). A third trapping grid was added the 
following year, and yielded the highest island fox densities ever 
recorded to that point (15.8 foxes per km 2 (41 foxes per mi 
2) in one study area), resulting in an island-wide estimate 
of 450 adults (Coonan et al. 1998). Annual population monitoring using 
capture-mark-recapture techniques documented a substantial decline in 
island fox

[[Page 63657]]

populations on San Miguel Island between 1994 and 1999 (Coonan et al. 
1998; Coonan et al. in review). In the last 7 years, estimated 
population size dropped from as many as 450 adults in 1994 (Coonan et 
al. 1998) to 17 adults currently (T. Coonan, unpublished data). Data 
from a remote camera survey and from fox sign (scat and tracks) 
indicate only one fox (a lone female that has evaded capture efforts) 
exists in the wild on San Miguel Island (Coonan et al. in review); the 
remaining 16 foxes are captive.
    In 1999, NPS captured 14 individuals (4 males and 10 females) from 
the San Miguel Island fox subspecies to protect them from further 
losses to predation and to initiate a captive propagation program. 
Captive breeding over the last 2 years has brought the captive San 
Miguel Island fox population up to 16 adults (5 males and 11 females) 
and 5 pups (all males). The captive San Miguel Island fox population 
has high parasite loads, which may affect the health of individual 
foxes (L. Munson, unpublished data). Until September 2001, all captive 
San Miguel Island foxes were held in one breeding facility, putting the 
subspecies in danger of extinction due to a catastrophic event such as 
wildfire or disease outbreak. The NPS moved half the captive foxes into 
a second breeding facility on San Miguel Island in October 2001 to 
minimize this risk (T. Coonan, pers. comm. 2001b).

Santa Rosa Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis santarosae)

    The earliest island fox trapping study from Santa Rosa reported a 
trapping efficiency of 50 percent and a density of 4.2 foxes per km 
2 (11 foxes per mi 2) (Laughrin 1973). Little 
population data has been collected on Santa Rosa Island foxes since 
Laughrin's studies. However, recent trapping data in 1998 and 2000 as 
well as anecdotal evidence suggests that Santa Rosa has experienced a 
decline similar to those on Santa Cruz and San Miguel Islands (Roemer 
1999; Coonan 2001). During 132 trap nights in 1998, trap success was 
4.8 percent, and only nine individuals were captured (Roemer 1999). 
Anecdotal sightings by park and ranch staff became much less frequent 
than in previous years (Coonan 2001).
    Believing that fewer than 100 island foxes remained on Santa Rosa 
Island (T. Coonan pers. comm. 1999), the NPS captured 10 adult foxes 
(four males and six females) to initiate captive breeding in March 
2000. Two seasons of captive breeding have increased the captive 
population to 22 adults (9 males and 13 females) and 10 pups (3 males 
and 7 females). The last known fox in the wild on Santa Rosa Island was 
brought into captivity in May 2001 (T. Coonan, pers. comm. 2001a). As 
with San Miguel Island, approximately half the captive foxes were moved 
to a second facility in October 2001 (T. Coonan, pers. comm. 2001b).

Santa Cruz Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis santacruzae)

    Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the Channel Islands and has 
supported the highest known densities of island fox in the past 
(Laughrin 1973). Laughrin (1971) estimated the island fox population of 
Santa Cruz Island to be approximately 3,000 individuals. Average 
density between 1973 and 1977 was 7.9 foxes per km 2 (20.4 
foxes per mi 2) (Laughrin 1980). Following Laughrin's 
studies, island fox populations on Santa Cruz Island were not surveyed 
again until 1993, when island foxes were found to be at an average 
density of 8.2 foxes per km 2 (21.2 foxes per mi 
2) (Roemer et al. 1994). Since that time, the population has 
decreased from an estimated 1,312 in 1993 to an estimated size of 133 
in 1999 (Roemer 1999; Roemer et al. 1994; Roemer et al. in press). In 
1998, trapping efficiency was low (2.9 percent), and island fox density 
ranged from 0.0 to 2.4 foxes per km 2 (0.0 to 6.2 foxes per 
mi 2), the lowest ever reported from Santa Cruz Island 
(Roemer 1999).
    Population monitoring efforts in 2001 have yielded captures of 75 
individual foxes. Of these, 27 have been outfitted with radio collars. 
The highest numbers of foxes were captured in the areas of relatively 
high cover. Five radio-collared fox carcasses have been retrieved, and 
all deaths have been attributable to predation by golden eagles (David 
Garcelon, Institute for Wildlife Studies, pers. comm. 2001). The Island 
Fox Conservation Working Group, a team of experts convened by the NPS 
to recommend appropriate recovery actions for the island fox, found 
that ``the existence of one pair of golden eagles on the island as of 
October 1, 2001, will warrant bringing foxes into captivity as the 
necessary conservative step in preserving the Santa Cruz Island fox 
population.'' Intensive trapping efforts to capture and relocate the 
remaining golden eagles in the spring and summer of 2001 have resulted 
in three captures; however, four eagles remain on the island (Brian 
Latta, Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group (SCPBRG), pers. comm. 
2001b). Thus, captive breeding of foxes will be initiated on Santa Cruz 
Island in early 2002 (T. Coonan, pers. comm. 2001b).
    Santa Cruz Island is currently occupied by a large feral pig 
population (estimated at approximately 3,000 to 5,000 individuals), 
which facilitates the colonization of the island by golden eagles. The 
Nature Conservancy and the NPS are planning an island-wide pig 
eradication program which will take years to complete.

Santa Catalina Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis catalinae)

    Santa Catalina Island has the largest human population, a large 
population of domestic dogs, and the highest degree of human activity 
and accessibility of the Channel Islands. Island fox numbers on Santa 
Catalina Island have fluctuated widely over the past 30 years. In 
Laughrin's early 1970s studies, only 2 island foxes were trapped on 
Santa Catalina Island for a trap efficiency of 6 percent and an average 
density of 0.1 fox per km 2 (0.3 foxes per mi 2) 
(Laughrin 1973). This density was 37 percent lower than any other 
island during this study. The reason for past low island fox numbers on 
Santa Catalina Island is unknown; the available food and habitats are 
comparable to that on the other islands. Island fox numbers on Santa 
Catalina Island increased slightly between 1975 and 1977 with average 
densities of 0.29 foxes per km 2 (0.77 foxes per mi 
2) (Propst 1975) and 0.30 foxes per km 2 (0.8 
foxes per mi 2) (Laughrin 1980). Between 1988 and 1991, 
average density increased, ranging from 2.6 to 12.8 foxes per km 
2 (6.7 to 33.1 foxes per mi 2) (Garcelon et al. 
1991). The Santa Catalina Island fox population increased to an 
estimated 1,342 foxes by 1994 (Roemer et al. 1994).
    The Santa Catalina Island fox population has experienced a recent 
dramatic decline attributed to canine distemper, presumably introduced 
by domestic dogs, in the eastern portion of the island (Timm et al. 
2000). Santa Catalina Island is separated into a large eastern side 
(40,000 acres) and a small western side (8,000 acres) by a narrow 
isthmus, which has apparently served as a barrier to the canine 
distemper virus. Trap success on the eastern side dropped from 26 
percent in 1998 to 0.96 percent in 1999 and 2000, while remaining 
stable at approximately 36 percent on the western portion. Two live 
foxes and one deceased fox recovered from the eastern portion of the 
island tested positive for canine distemper virus, constituting the 
first positive record of canine distemper in island foxes (Timm et al. 
2000). Island fox trapping efforts during 2000 and 2001 captured 137 
island foxes on the western end and 37 on the eastern

[[Page 63658]]

portion of Santa Catalina Island (D. Garcelon, unpublished data).
    A captive propagation program for the Santa Catalina Island fox is 
currently underway. The Institute for Wildlife Studies captured 16 
adults (10 females and 6 males) between February and mid-March 2001 as 
the founder population for the captive breeding program. Of these, 
three were pregnant females, which gave birth to a total of 18 pups. 
Twelve of these pups died within 7 days of birth, likely due to stress 
to the females from capture during late pregnancy. The six remaining 
pups will be released onto the east end of the island in the fall of 
2001 (Steve Timm, Institute for Wildlife Studies, pers. comm. 2001).
    In addition to the captive breeding program, the Santa Catalina 
Conservancy and the Institute for Wildlife Studies initiated a 
translocation program in 2001 to repopulate island foxes on the east 
side of the island. Of the 10 island foxes relocated from the west end 
to the east end, one has died as a result of trauma, potentially from a 
vehicle strike (S. Timm, pers. comm. 2001). The remaining nine foxes 
appear to be alive and healthy.

Previous Federal Action

    We published an updated candidate Notice of Review for animals on 
December 30, 1982 (47 FR 58454). This notice included all six 
subspecies of island fox in a list of category 2 candidate species. We 
maintained all six subspecies of island fox as category 2 candidates in 
subsequent notices: September 18, 1985 (50 FR 37958), January 6, 1989 
(54 FR 554), November 21, 1991 (56 FR 58804) and November 15, 1994 (59 
FR 58982). As announced in a notice published in the February 28, 1996, 
Federal Register (61 FR 7596), we discontinued the designation of 
category 2 candidates. Thus, all six subspecies of island fox were not 
included in this and subsequent notices of review. In our most recent 
Notice of Review, published on October 30, 2001 (65 FR 54808), we 
included the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina 
island foxes as candidate species. Candidate species are those species 
for which listing is warranted but precluded by other pending listing 
actions, in accordance with section 4(b)(3)(B)(iii) of the Act.
    On June 1, 2000, we received a petition from the Center for 
Biological Diversity (Center) in Tucson, Arizona, and the Institute for 
Wildlife Studies in Arcata, California, requesting that we add four 
subspecies of island fox, the San Miguel Island fox, Santa Rosa Island 
fox, Santa Cruz Island fox, and Santa Catalina Island fox to the list 
of endangered species pursuant to the Act. Due to a lack of funding, we 
did not issue a 90-day finding for the petition. In response to our 
lack of action on the petition, the Center sent us a 60-day notice of 
intent to sue on December 4, 2000. This proposed rule satisfies a 
measure in the settlement agreement with the Center (Center for 
Biological Diversity, et al. v. Norton, Civ. No. 01-2063 (JR) (D.D.C.), 
entered by the Court on October 2, 2001.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act and its implementing 
regulations (50 CFR part 424) issued to implement the listing 
provisions of the Act establish procedures for adding species to the 
Federal Lists. A species may be determined to be an endangered or 
threatened species due to one or more of the five factors described in 
section 4(a)(1) of the Act. These factors and their application to the 
four island fox subspecies are as follows:

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    Habitat on all islands occupied by island foxes has been heavily 
affected by a history of livestock grazing, cultivation, and other 
disturbance. A century and a half of overgrazing by non-native 
herbivores, including sheep (Ovis aries), goats (Capra hircus), rabbits 
(Oryctolagus cuniculus), deer (Odocoileus hemionus), elk (Cervus 
elaphus), cattle (Bos taurus), pigs (Sus scrofa), and horses (Equus 
caballus) resulted in substantial impacts to the soils, topography, and 
vegetation of the islands (Coblentz 1980; Johnson 1980; O'Malley 1994; 
Peart et al. 1994). Damage to native island plants and their habitats 
on the northern Channel Islands by introduced stock and game animals is 
evidenced by our 1997 listing of 13 endemic island plants as endangered 
or threatened (62 FR 40954). One result of overgrazing has been the 
replacement of much of the native coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and 
oak woodland habitats with other vegetation, especially non-native 
annual grasses such as Avena and Bromus spp. (Brumbaugh 1980; Klinger 
et al. 1994). Annual grasslands are less preferred as habitat by island 
foxes (Laughrin 1977; Kovach and Dow 1982). The California Department 
of Fish and Game (CDFG), in recommending the retention of the island 
foxes classification as threatened under State law, cited the continued 
habitat degradation by herbivorous mammals on Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, 
Santa Catalina, and San Clemente islands (CDFG 1987). Since that time, 
alien species removal programs have eradicated or reduced the 
introduced herbivore populations on many islands, but pigs remain on 
Santa Cruz Island; deer, elk, and horses remain on Santa Rosa Island; 
and pigs and goats remain on Santa Catalina Island. Even though many of 
the introduced herbivores have been removed, their earlier presence 
facilitated the invasion of and spread of non-native annual grasses on 
the islands. This invasion continues to be a problem as native island 
habitats are replaced by annual grasslands, which constitute less 
preferred habitats for foxes. On Santa Rosa Island, the continued 
presence of deer likely results in less available food for foxes, as 
deer browse the flowering and fruiting branches of native shrubs such 
as manzanita and toyon, which can be an important component of island 
fox diets during some seasons.
    Even after the removal of non-native grazers on some islands, 
habitat recovery is slow (Hochberg et al. 1979) and threatened by the 
spread of non-native plants that became established during the ranching 
era. These exotic species continue to invade and modify island fox 
habitat resulting in lower diversity of vegetation, less diverse 
habitat structure, and reduced food availability. The replacement of 
native shrub communities by non-native annual grasslands has reduced 
protective cover for island foxes, making them more vulnerable to 
predation (Roemer 1999; Coonan et al. in review). Annual grasslands 
also offer fewer food resources to foxes, and the seeds of annual 
grasses can become lodged in the eyes of island foxes, causing damage 
or temporary blindness (Laughrin 1977).

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Although island foxes were used in the past for pelts and 
ceremonial uses by Native Americans (Collins 1991b), island foxes are 
not currently known to be exploited for commercial, recreational, 
scientific, or educational purposes.

C. Disease or Predation

    Predation. Recent island fox declines on San Miguel, Santa Cruz, 
and Santa Rosa islands have been attributed to predation by golden 
eagles (Roemer 1999; Coonan et al. in review; Roemer et al. in press). 
Roemer (1999) linked 19 of 21 documented island fox mortalities on 
Santa Cruz Island between April 1994 and July 1997 to golden eagles. On

[[Page 63659]]

San Miguel Island, 5 of 7 mortalities of radio-collared foxes were 
attributed to golden eagle predation during 1998 to 1999 (Coonan et al. 
in review). No data exist from Santa Rosa Island, but due to its 
location between Santa Cruz and San Miguel islands, island foxes on 
Santa Rosa Island likely experience similar predation pressures from 
golden eagles. As island foxes did not evolve under the presence of a 
large avian predator, they are likely not vigilant towards avian 
predators, and thus provide an easy target for golden eagles (Roemer et 
al. in press). Golden eagle predation likely continues to be the 
leading cause of mortality of island foxes on Santa Cruz Island. The 
deaths of 5 radio-collared foxes during radio-tracking efforts in 2001 
have been attributed to golden eagle predation, based on the state of 
the carcasses and the presence of golden eagle feathers or avian feces 
at the carcass site (D. Garcelon, pers. comm. 2001).
    The current level of golden eagle activity on the northern Channel 
Islands is historically unprecedented (Paul Collins, Santa Barbara 
Museum of Natural History, unpublished data). Golden eagles were known 
to occasionally visit the islands but never to establish residence 
(Diamond and Jones 1980; Jones and Collins, in prep.). The first known 
active golden eagle nest from the Channel Islands was located on Santa 
Cruz Island in 1999 (Gary Roemer, New Mexico State University, pers. 
comm. 1999; SCPBRG 2001), but golden eagles were likely established on 
the island as early as 1994 (Roemer et al. in press). Island fox 
remains along with the remains of feral piglets (Sus scrofa), ravens 
(Corvus corax), Brandt's cormorants (Phalacrocorax pencillatus), and 
western gulls (Larus occidentalis) were found in the nest. In September 
1999, surveys by SCPBRG identified 12 resident golden eagles, including 
possibly five breeding pairs on Santa Cruz Island. Santa Cruz Island is 
now the main nesting and roosting location for golden eagles on the 
northern Channel Islands, although one pair of golden eagles may have 
nested on Santa Rosa Island (B. Latta, pers. comm. 1999). Golden eagles 
breeding on Santa Cruz Island are thought to ``commute'' to Santa Rosa 
and San Miguel islands to feed, where eagles have fewer alternative 
prey species to island foxes (i.e., no feral pigs as there are on Santa 
Cruz Island) and foxes have less cover from vegetation to hide them 
from avian predators (Roemer 1999).
    Before golden eagles started utilizing the northern Channel Islands 
in the 1990s, the only known predator of island foxes was the red-
tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), which preyed only occasionally on 
young island foxes (Laughrin 1973; Moore and Collins 1995). The docile 
and inquisitive nature of the island fox (Laughrin 1977) suggests an 
evolutionary history lacking predation (Carlquist 1974).
    The recent colonization of the northern Channel Islands by golden 
eagles is likely a combination of two factors: (1) Introduction of 
exotic mammals on the northern Channel Islands resulting in a 
historically unprecedented prey base, and (2) the extirpation of bald 
eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) from the islands as a result of 
dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) poisoning. Historically, the 
small population of vertebrate island fauna would have provided little 
prey for golden eagles, which rely on a diet of small terrestrial 
vertebrates. Before the ranching era on the Channel Islands, transient 
golden eagles landing on the islands would have found little prey to 
encourage them to establish permanent residence. Furthermore, nesting 
bald eagles would have discouraged foraging golden eagles from 
establishing residence by aggressively defending their already 
established territories. Bald eagles are represented in the prehistoric 
fossil record of the northern Channel Islands (Guthrie 1993) and bred 
there until 1960 when nest failures, as a result of DDT contamination, 
extirpated them from the northern Channel Islands (Kiff 1980).
    Roemer et al. (in press) modeled time-energy budgets and predation 
rates of golden eagles on Santa Cruz Island to determine if the 
precipitous decline in island foxes could be attributed to predation 
alone. They concluded that the island fox declines on the northern 
Channel Islands are a consequence of hyper-predation, defined as when a 
prey species that can sustain high predation rates subsidizes the 
extinction of another prey species by acting as an alternate food 
resource for a shared predator (Courchamp et al. 1999). In this case, 
the large feral pig population enabled the golden eagle to colonize 
Santa Cruz Island; a resident golden eagle population could not have 
been supported by the native terrestrial vertebrate fauna (Roemer et 
al. in press). Their model indicates that as few as six golden eagles 
could have driven the island fox populations to the current low levels. 
Between 1999 and the present, 19 golden eagles have been translocated 
from Santa Cruz Island (SCPBRG 2001).
    To protect island foxes on the northern Channel Islands from 
further declines, the National Park Service, the Service, and The 
Nature Conservancy funded a golden eagle removal program beginning in 
August of 1999. Between the fall of 1999 and 2000, 13 golden eagles 
were captured from Santa Cruz Island and relocated to northern 
California. When trapping efforts ceased in the fall of 2000, an 
estimated seven golden eagles remained on the northern Channel Islands 
(Brian Walton, SCPBRG, pers. comm. 2000). Golden eagle trapping was 
resumed in 2001, with six eagles removed from Santa Cruz Island. 
Additional golden eagles seem to be coming from the mainland; 
currently, five eagles (two adult females, one adult male and two 
subadults) remain on Santa Cruz Island. Due to trap wariness, the 
abundance of feral pig prey, and the harsh topography of Santa Cruz 
Island, the remaining golden eagles have proven difficult to trap (B. 
Latta, pers. comm. 2001a). Thus, despite these efforts to remove golden 
eagles from the islands, golden eagle predation continues to be the 
main cause of mortality of island foxes on Santa Cruz Island, and would 
likely constitute a serious predation threat to any foxes subsequently 
released from captive breeding programs on Santa Rosa and San Miguel 
    We are currently investigating the feasibility of reintroducing 
bald eagles to the northern Channel Islands (Valoppi et al. 2000). As 
part of this feasibility study, releases of juvenile bald eagles to 
Santa Rosa or Santa Cruz Island could begin as early as 2002 (Dan 
Welsh, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pers. comm. 2001). The 
feasibility study is being conducted as a pilot project to assess the 
potential breeding success of bald eagles on the northern Channel 
Islands, and will include several aspects of monitoring bald eagle 
movement and exposure to 2, 2-Bis (p-chlorophenyl)-1, 1-
dechloroethylene (DDE), the metabolized form of DDT. The presence of 
territorial golden eagles on the islands may hinder bald eagle 
reintroduction, because territorial golden eagles may chase away non-
nesting bald eagles (B. Latta, pers. comm. 2001a). Currently, the NPS 
is in the process of capturing golden eagles on the northern Channel 
Islands as part of an overall island fox recovery strategy. The 
presence of territorial bald eagles on the northern Channel Islands may 
assist in discouraging transient golden eagles from establishing 
breeding territories on the islands. However, the success of bald eagle 
introduction efforts is uncertain, and would take years to discern, due 
to the long time it takes for bald eagles to reach sexual maturity (4 
years or more). Therefore, if

[[Page 63660]]

reintroduction efforts are successful, bald eagles will not nest on 
this island until 2006. To ensure that no golden eagles return to the 
northern Channel Islands, a large resident bald eagle population would 
be necessary, because Santa Cruz Island is large enough for many eagle 
breeding territories.
    Disease. On Santa Catalina Island, the large sudden decline in 
island foxes has been attributed to canine distemper, most likely 
brought to the island by a domestic dog (Timm et al. 2000). The steep 
and sudden pattern of decline on Santa Catalina Island is more 
indicative of a disease outbreak rather than the slower decline due to 
predation seen on the northern Channel Islands (Timm et al. 2000). In 
addition to positive testing for canine distemper in foxes caught on 
the east end of Santa Catalina Island, the evidence suggesting a 
disease-related decline versus other causes are: (1) The population 
decline on Santa Catalina Island is of a similar magnitude (90 percent) 
as on the northern Channel Islands, but has occurred within 1 year 
rather than the steady 6-year decline seen on San Miguel, Santa Cruz, 
and Santa Rosa Islands; (2) the declines on the northern islands are 
island-wide, while the geographically restricted western population on 
Santa Catalina Island has remained relatively healthy; and (3) sick 
foxes have been seen on Santa Catalina Island but not on the northern 
islands (G. Roemer, pers. comm. 2000).
    Two healthy adult foxes caught on the east end of Santa Catalina 
Island in 1999 tested positive for canine distemper, constituting the 
first positive records of canine distemper in island fox. A necropsy of 
one island fox identified the cause of death as canine distemper (Timm 
et al. 2000). No island foxes tested positive for canine distemper in a 
previous comprehensive serologic survey of all islands (Garcelon et al. 
1992), nor did any foxes from San Clemente, Santa Cruz, or San Miguel 
test positive for canine distemper virus during the period (1994 to 
1997) of the fox decline on the northern islands (Roemer et al. in 
press). The absence of antibodies to canine distemper virus in any 
island foxes during these studies implies that either the virus had 
never been introduced to the islands, or the species is highly 
susceptible to the virus and none survive infection. As the closely 
related mainland gray fox is highly susceptible to canine distemper 
virus, island foxes likely have high susceptibility as well (Garcelon 
et al. 1992). This hypothesis is supported by the deaths of two island 
foxes in zoos from the inappropriate administration of modified live 
canine distemper vaccine (Linda Munson, University of California at 
Davis, pers. comm. 2001). Although the outbreak of canine distemper 
that precipitated the sudden decline of island foxes on Santa Catalina 
Island has apparently run its course, the Santa Catalina Island 
subspecies remains susceptible to another outbreak of the disease due 
to the continued exposure to domestic dogs that may transmit the virus.
    Administration of an experimental canine distemper vaccine 
developed for ferrets (another species highly susceptible to canine 
distemper) to some island foxes captured on Santa Catalina Island has 
had promising preliminary results (S. Timm, pers. comm. 2001). With 
further testing, the vaccine may prove useful for protecting island 
foxes on all islands from future canine distemper outbreaks.
    All island fox populations have been surveyed for other canine 
diseases and parasites. Although island foxes are known to carry 
antibodies for a variety of canine diseases, none of these could 
explain the type or geographic distribution of the observed decline on 
the northern Channel Islands (Garcelon et al. 1992; Coonan et al. 2000; 
Roemer 1999; Roemer et al. in press). Although pathology work has not 
identified a specific cause of population decline (with the exception 
of canine distemper virus on Santa Catalina Island), some underlying 
diseases or parasites may also affect population viability or 
individual health (L. Munson, pers. comm. 2001). The most common 
antibodies found in island foxes are canine adenovirus and canine 
parvovirus (Garcelon et al. 1992). Canine herpesvirus, coronavirus, 
leptospirosis, and toxoplasmosis have been recorded at low levels 
(Garcelon et al. 1992, Coonan et al. 2000, Roemer et al. in press). The 
relative occurrence of canine adenovirus was similar before and after 
the population crashes on these islands, while antibodies for 
parvovirus were detected from a small number of samples from 1994, but 
not detected in 1995 or 1997 samples (Coonan et al. 2000). Canine 
adenovirus may be typically present in the island fox populations 
(Garcelon et al. 1992), with little effect on individual health. Canine 
parvovirus has been found in other wild canids and can result in 
mortality of pups, prior to emergence from the den (Garcelon et al. 
    Canine heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) has been documented in four 
island fox subspecies (San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San 
Nicolas island foxes; Roemer et al. 2000). Despite the high 
seroprevalence or occurence of heartworm in these populations (between 
58 and 100 percent in 1997-98), heartworm is not thought to be 
responsible for the decline of island foxes for the following reasons: 
(1) Seroprevalence on San Nicolas Island, where the population is 
stable, is higher than on Santa Cruz Island, where the population is 
decreasing (Roemer et al. in press), (2) heartworm was present in all 
four subspecies in or before 1988, pre-dating the population declines, 
(3) seroprevalence in the San Miguel population was high in 1994, when 
densities on that island reached the highest levels ever recorded for 
island foxes, and (4) necropsy results have found few adults worms in 
the hearts of island foxes and no evidence of heartworm disease (Roemer 
1999). However, heartworm may have contributed to mortality in older 
foxes (Roemer et al. in press), exacerbating the conservation crisis 
for the island fox.
    Necropsies performed at the University of California at Davis have 
detected an unusually high degree of thyroid atrophy (characterized by 
a complete absence of colloid in the thyroid gland) in island foxes 
from San Clemente, Santa Catalina, San Nicolas, and San Miguel islands 
(L. Munson, pers. comm. 2001). The cause of thyroid atrophy in island 
foxes has yet to be investigated; thyroid atrophy in other species has 
been linked to high levels of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs). It is 
unclear how thyroid atrophy is affecting fox populations (L. Munson, 
pers. comm. 2001). Pathology work on 89 foxes has also detected an 
increased prevalence of emaciation (20 percent pre-1994; 47 percent 
post-1994); it is unknown why increased emaciation has occurred.
    Island foxes held in captivity are likely to be exposed to 
increased parasite loads due to artificial densities and unnaturally 
low mobility. On San Miguel Island, captive island foxes have been 
found to have high parasite loads of Angiocaulus spp., Spirocerca spp., 
and Uncinaria spp. (L. Munson, unpublished data). These parasites, 
thought to have had minor effects on the population in the past (see 
Coonan et al. in review), may have significant effects on individual 
fox health due to the facilitation of their spread and density by the 
captive breeding situation. For example, fox handlers have noticed high 
incidence of rectal bleeding in the captive San Miguel population, 
likely due to Uncinaria (a type of hookworm). Hookworms feed on the 
inner lining of the small intestine and cause loss of blood or 
hemorrhaging to the host, sometimes to the point of severe anemia and 
death. The NPS is working to address this threat by developing a

[[Page 63661]]

treatment process for hookworm in coordination with the veterinary team 
of the Island Fox Conservation Working Group. Captive breeding programs 
to facilitate recovery are planned to continue for these four island 
fox subspecies. Therefore, exposure to increased parasitic loads will 
continue to be a threat.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The primary causes of the decline of the island fox are the 
degradation of habitat by introduced herbivores, unprecedented 
predation by golden eagles, and the rapid transmission of canine 
distemper through the Santa Catalina subspecies. Federal, State and 
local laws have not been sufficient to prevent past and ongoing losses 
of island foxes.
    In 1971, the State of California listed the island fox as State-
rare (a designation later changed to threatened), which means that it 
may not be taken without a special (i.e., scientific collecting) permit 
(CRC, Title 14, Section 41) or an incidental take permit issued 
pursuant to section 2081 of the California Endangered Species Act. 
However, this protection applies generally only to actual possession or 
intentional killing of individual animals, or actual death of 
individual animals incidental to otherwise lawful activity, and may 
afford little or no protection to habitat. State law does not require 
Federal agencies to avoid or compensate for impacts to the island fox 
and its habitat. There are currently no State regulatory mechanisms 
designed to protect island foxes on federally managed lands, including 
San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz islands.
    Federal law governs the management of NPS and Navy lands, including 
the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species 
Act, the National Park Service Organic Act, and the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act. Many federally listed plant and animals species, 
including 14 listed plants, the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), 
the southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis), the island night lizard 
(Xantusia riversiana), and the western snowy plover (Charadrius 
alexandrinus nivosus), occur on the Channel Islands. NPS management is 
further dictated by Department of the Interior policies and NPS 
policies and guidelines, including NPS guidelines for natural resources 
management (NPS 1991), and the Channel Islands National Park Management 
Plan (NPS 1985). Both the NPS and the Navy have adequate authority to 
manage the land and activities under their administration to benefit 
the welfare of the island fox. The NPS developed a draft recovery plan 
for island foxes on the northern Channel Islands to guide their 
recovery options. Steps are being taken to eliminate feral pigs on 
Santa Cruz Island and decrease predation pressure on island foxes by 
relocating golden eagles from the northern Channel Islands. However, in 
some cases because of conflicting management concerns, other 
priorities, and lack of funding, conservation efforts are not 
proceeding as quickly as necessary. In addition to removing golden 
eagles, their feral pig prey base must be removed to prevent golden 
eagles from recolonizing the islands.
    San Miguel Island is under the jurisdiction of the Navy, but the 
NPS assists in managing the natural, historic, and scientific values of 
San Miguel Island through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) originally 
signed in 1963, an amendment signed in 1976, and a supplemental 
Interagency Agreement (IA) signed in 1985. The MOA states that the 
``paramount use of the islands and their environs shall be for the 
purpose of a missile test range, and all activities conducted by or in 
behalf of the Department of the Interior on such islands, shall 
recognize the priority of such use'' (Navy 1963). In addition to San 
Miguel, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa lie wholly within the Navy's Pacific 
Missile Test Center (PMTC) Sea Test Range. The 1985 IA provides for 
PMTC to have access and use of portions of those islands, for 
expeditious processing of any necessary permits by NPS, and for 
mitigation of damage of park resources from any such activity (Navy 
1985). Should the Navy no longer require use of the islands, NPS would 
seek authorization for the islands to be preserved and protected as 
units within the NPS system (Navy 1976). To date, conflicts concerning 
protection of sensitive resources on San Miguel Island have not 
occurred. However, if the Navy were to resume use of San Miguel Island, 
there are no mechanisms in place to protect the island fox.
    On islands managed by Federal agencies, prohibitions against 
bringing domestic pets to the islands exist. These prohibitions are 
difficult to enforce and violations are known to occur. Boaters have 
been observed bringing pets onshore to all three northern Channel 
Islands with island fox populations. On Santa Catalina Island, health 
certificates or quarantines are not necessary to bring domestic pets to 
the islands, exposing island foxes to increased risk of disease. On 
Santa Rosa Island, a ranching enterprise operating under a special use 
permit from the NPS is allowed to have ranch dogs on the island 
provided that the dogs have proof of vaccination in compliance with 
Santa Barbara County regulations, which requires only rabies shots.
    Federal protection of golden eagles by the Bald and Golden Eagle 
Protection Act of 1962, as amended, has increased the golden eagle 
population on mainland California (B. Walton, pers. comm. 2000). As a 
result, golden eagles have expanded their range in order to establish 
breeding territories. The protections afforded golden eagles limit 
management alternatives to protect island foxes. Lethal removal of 
golden eagles would require a depredation permit from the Service. Such 
a permit would allow golden eagles to be taken by firearms, traps, or 
other suitable means except by poison or from aircraft (50 CFR 22.23). 
The regulatory restrictions on taking golden eagles limit the 
effectiveness of golden eagle removal, as the very steep topography on 
Santa Cruz Island makes lethal removal of golden eagles from the ground 
    California State law (Food and Agricultural Code 31752.5) prohibits 
lethal control of feral cats unless cats are held for a minimum of six 
days. This law prevents the Catalina Island Conservancy from taking 
steps to eradicate feral cats on the island, as it does not have 
adequate facilities to hold cats (see Factor E).

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Several other factors, including competition from introduced 
species and stochastic environmental factors, may have negative effects 
on island foxes and their habitats.
    Competition with feral cats. CDFG, in recommending the retention of 
the threatened classification of the island fox under State law, cited 
competition with feral cats on Santa Catalina, San Nicolas, and San 
Clemente islands (CDFG 1987). The effects of cats on island foxes are 
unknown and may differ among islands. Feral cats outweigh island fox by 
an average of 2 to 1 and may negatively affect island foxes by direct 
aggression, predation on young, disease transmission, and competition 
for food resources (Laughrin 1978). Island fox population decreases on 
San Nicolas Island were accompanied by a concomitant increase in feral 
cat populations (Laughrin 1978). The presence of feral cats increases 
the risk of a transfer of infectious disease to island foxes (Roelke-
Parker et al. 1996). Feral cats have been found to displace island 
foxes from habitats on San Nicolas Island (Kovach and Dow 1985).

[[Page 63662]]

As has been seen on San Nicolas and San Clemente islands, feral cats 
are extremely difficult to eradicate, requiring ongoing yearly programs 
to keep numbers controlled (Phillips and Schmidt 1997). No feral cat 
control exists on Santa Catalina Island due to local ordinances and 
resistance to lethal control from the residents of the island.
    Lack of genetic variability. As a population becomes genetically 
homogenous, its susceptibility to disease, parasites, and extinction 
increases (O'Brien and Evermann 1988) and its ability to evolve and 
adapt to environmental change is diminished (Templeton 1994). The four 
island fox subspecies that have suffered large population declines 
could be at risk of having reduced genetic variability. Such population 
or demographic ``bottlenecks'' may result in reductions in genetic 
variation, depending on the size of the bottleneck and the growth rate 
of the population afterward (Meffe and Carroll 1997). In fact, at least 
one previously variable microsatellite locus is now fixed (i.e., one 
DNA marker no longer exhibits any genetic variability) in the San 
Miguel Island captive population following the decline (Gray et al. 
2001). The San Nicolas Island fox has an unusually low degree of 
genetic variability (Gilbert et al. 1990; Wayne et al. 1991a; Goldstein 
et al. 1999), which may have been due to a major historical bottleneck 
(Gilbert et al. 1990). A lack of genetic variability can correspond to 
a reduced resistance to disease or physical abnormalities due to 
inbreeding. Due to the low numbers of individuals in the captive 
breeding programs and the lack of wild populations on San Miguel and 
Santa Rosa Islands, the lack of genetic variability threatens the 
island foxes from these islands.
    Stochastic environmental and population factors. Island endemic 
species have high extinction risk due to isolation and small population 
sizes (MacArthur and Wilson 1967). Because the island fox is restricted 
to small islands, it is more subject to the effects of environmental 
perturbations and decline of birth rates due to low densities (i.e., 
Allee effects; Allee 1931) than species occurring on the mainland. 
Reduced population size exposes the island fox to both catastrophic 
environmental events (e.g., drought, wildfire, or disease) and 
demographic factors (e.g., skewed sex ratios) that could cause or 
hasten extinction. Wildfires could affect island foxes by reducing food 
availability, altering vegetation or resulting in the death of 
individual foxes (especially pups during the denning season). On San 
Miguel and Santa Rosa islands, which no longer have wild populations, 
the concentration of all island foxes into small geographic areas 
increases the vulnerability of these subspecies to disease outbreaks. 
The extremely small island fox population sizes on San Miguel, Santa 
Rosa and Santa Cruz islands puts those populations at risk of 
extinction due to demographic factors as well. For example, 4 of the 14 
original island foxes brought into the captive propagation program on 
San Miguel Island were male. Skewed sex ratios may hinder recovery 
efforts for the species, because island foxes typically form long-
standing pair bonds and unpaired females have never been recorded to 
raise a litter.
    Road mortalities. The fearless nature of island foxes, coupled with 
relatively high vehicle traffic on the southern Channel Islands, 
results in a number of vehicle collisions each year on islands with 
human populations (Wilson 1976; Garcelon 1999; G. Smith, unpublished 
data). For example, on San Nicolas Island where vehicle collisions are 
the largest documented mortality source, an average of 13 fox carcasses 
attributed to vehicle collisions are recovered each year (G. Smith, 
unpublished data). On San Clemente Island, vehicle strikes claimed a 
minimum of 26 foxes between the years 1991 and 1995 (Garcelon 1999), 
while in earlier times, Wilson (1976) estimated that approximately 25 
island foxes were killed each year. Although no records have been kept, 
vehicle collisions on Santa Catalina Island likely cause a number of 
deaths comparable to San Nicolas and San Clemente Islands. Vehicle 
collisions on the northern Channel Islands are uncommon due to low 
traffic volume and the rough unpaved nature of most roads.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the past, present, and future threats 
faced by these taxa in determining to propose this rule. The 
precipitous declines of all four island fox subspecies addressed in 
this rule are due to the indirect and direct effects of the 
introduction of non-native mammals on all islands. Other threats 
include disease and competition from feral cats, road mortality on 
Santa Catalina Island, and natural events which could diminish or 
destroy the small extant populations. Existing regulatory mechanisms 
are inadequate to protect these taxa. Based on our evaluation, the 
preferred action is to list the San Miguel Island fox, Santa Cruz 
Island fox, Santa Rosa Island fox, and Santa Catalina Island fox as 

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as: (i) The 
specific areas within the geographical area occupied by a species, at 
the time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found 
those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation 
of the species and (II) that may require special management 
consideration or protection and, (ii) specific areas outside the 
geographical area occupied by a species at the time it is listed in 
accordance with the provisions of section 4 of the Act, upon a 
determination that such areas are essential for the conservation of the 
species. ``Conservation'' means the use of all methods and procedures 
needed to bring the species to the point at which listing under the Act 
is no longer necessary.
    Section 4(a)(3) of the Act, as amended, and implementing 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12) require that, to the maximum extent prudent 
and determinable, the Secretary designate critical habitat at the time 
the species is determined to be endangered or threatened. Our 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1) state that the designation of critical 
habitat is not prudent when one or both of the following situations 
exist--(1) The species is threatened by taking or other human activity, 
and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the 
degree of threat to the species, or (2) such designation of critical 
habitat would not be beneficial to the species.
    In the case of these subspecies, designation of critical habitat 
would not be expected to increase the threats to the subspecies and may 
provide some benefits. The primary regulatory effect of critical 
habitat is the section 7 requirement that agencies refrain from taking 
any action that destroys or adversely modifies critical habitat. While 
a critical habitat designation for habitat currently occupied by this 
species would not be likely to change the section 7 consultation 
outcome because an action that destroys or adversely modifies such 
critical habitat would also be likely to result in jeopardy to the 
species, there may be instances where section 7 consultation would be 
triggered only if critical habitat is designated. Examples could 
include unoccupied habitat or occupied habitat that may become 
unoccupied in the future. Designating critical habitat may also produce 
some educational or informational benefits. Therefore, designation of 
critical habitat is prudent for the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, 
and San Clemente Island foxes.

[[Page 63663]]

    However, our budget for listing activities is currently 
insufficient to allow us to immediately complete all the listing 
actions required by the Act. Listing these four island fox subspecies 
without designation of critical habitat will allow us to concentrate 
our limited resources on higher priority critical habitat and other 
listing actions, while allowing us to put in place protections needed 
for the conservation of these island fox subspecies without further 
delay. This is consistent with section 4(b)(6)(C)(i) of the Act, which 
states that final listing decisions may be issued without critical 
habitat designations when it is essential that such determinations be 
promptly published. We will prepare a critical habitat designation in 
the future at such time when our available resources allow it.

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Endangered Species Act include recognition, 
recovery actions, requirements for Federal protection, and prohibitions 
against certain practices. Recognition through listing encourages 
public awareness and results in conservation actions by Federal, State, 
and local agencies, private organizations, and individuals. The Act 
provides for possible land acquisition and cooperation with the States 
and requires that recovery actions be carried out for all listed 
species. Funding may be available through section 6 of the Act for the 
State to conduct recovery activities. The protection required of 
Federal agencies and the prohibitions against certain activities 
involving listed animals are discussed, in part, below.
    Section 7(a) of the Act, as amended, requires Federal agencies to 
evaluate their actions with respect to any species that is proposed or 
listed as endangered or threatened and with respect to its critical 
habitat, if any is being designated. Regulations implementing this 
interagency cooperation provision of the Act are codified at 50 CFR 
part 402. Section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires Federal agencies to 
confer with the Service on any action that is likely to jeopardize the 
continued existence of a species proposed for listing or result in 
destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a 
species is subsequently listed, section 7(a)(2) of the Act requires 
Federal agencies to ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or 
carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the 
species or destroy or adversely modify its critical habitat. If a 
Federal action may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the 
responsible Federal agency must enter into consultation with the 
Service, under section 7(a)(2) of the Act. San Miguel and Santa Rosa 
islands are entirely federally owned and managed. Although 75 percent 
of Santa Cruz Island is owned by The Nature Conservancy, the entire 
island lies within the Channel Islands National Park and Channel 
Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and The Nature Conservancy and the 
NPS coordinate many of the resource management activities occurring on 
the island. Santa Catalina Island is the only island fox locality that 
does not have substantial Federal involvement. Federal agency actions 
that may affect the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa 
Catalina island foxes and may require conference and/or consultation 
with us include, but are not limited to, those within the jurisdiction 
of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Navy, the NPS, and the 
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
    The listing of the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa 
Catalina island foxes as endangered would provide for the development 
and implementation of a recovery plan for these taxa. Such a plan will 
bring together Federal, State, and local efforts for the conservation 
of these taxa. The plan will establish a framework for agencies to 
coordinate activities and to cooperate with each other in conservation 
efforts. The plan will set recovery priorities and estimate the costs 
of the tasks necessary to accomplish the priorities. It will also 
describe site-specific management actions necessary to achieve the 
conservation of the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa 
Catalina island foxes. Additionally, pursuant to section 6 of the Act, 
we would be able to grant funds to the State for management actions 
promoting the protection and recovery of the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, 
Santa Cruz, and Santa Catalina island foxes.
    The Act and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered 
wildlife. These prohibitions of section 9(a)(2) of the Act, implemented 
by 50 CFR 17.21 for endangered species, make it illegal for any person 
subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take (includes 
harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect; or to attempt any of these), import or export, ship in 
interstate commerce in the course of commercial activity, or sell or 
offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce any listed species. It 
is also illegal to possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship 
any such wildlife that has been taken illegally. Further, it is illegal 
for any person to attempt to commit, to solicit another person to 
commit, or to cause to be committed, any of these acts. Certain 
exceptions apply to our agents and State conservation agencies.
    Permits may be issued to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered wildlife under certain circumstances. Regulations 
governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 17.22 and 17.23. Such permits 
are available for scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation or 
survival of the species, and/or for incidental take in the course of 
otherwise lawful activities. Permits are also available for zoological 
exhibitions, educational purposes, or special purposes consistent with 
the purposes of the Act. Requests for copies of the regulations on 
listed species and inquiries about prohibitions and permits may be 
addressed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species 
Permits, 911 NE 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232-4181 (503/231-2063, 
facsimile 503/231-6243).
    As published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34272), 
it is our policy to identify to the maximum extent practicable at the 
time a species is listed those activities that would or would not 
constitute a violation of section 9 of the Act. The intent of this 
policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of this listing on 
proposed and ongoing activities within the species' range.
    We believe that, based on the best available information, the 
following actions are not likely to result in a violation of section 9, 
provided these activities are carried out in accordance with existing 
regulations and permit requirements:
    (1) Possession, delivery, or movement, including interstate 
transport and import into or export from the United States, involving 
no commercial activity, of dead specimens of these taxa that were 
collected prior to the date of publication in the Federal Register of a 
final regulation adding these taxa to the list of endangered species;
    (2) Actions that may affect the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, 
or Santa Catalina island foxes that are authorized, funded, or carried 
out by a Federal agency, when the action is conducted in accordance 
with an incidental take statement issued by us under section 7 of the 
    (3) Actions that may affect the Santa Cruz or Santa Catalina island 
foxes that are not authorized, funded, or carried out by a Federal 
agency, when the action is conducted in accordance with

[[Page 63664]]

an incidental take permit issued by us under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the 
Act. To obtain a permit, an applicant must develop a habitat 
conservation plan and apply for an incidental take permit that 
minimizes and mitigates impacts to the species to the maximum extent 
practicable; and
    (4) Actions that may affect the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, 
or Santa Catalina island foxes that are conducted in accordance with 
the conditions of a section 10(a)(1)(A) permit for scientific research 
or to enhance the propagation or survival of the species.
    We believe that the following actions could result in a violation 
of section 9; however, possible violations are not limited to these 
actions alone:
    (1) Unauthorized collecting, trapping, capturing, killing, 
harassing, sale, delivery, or movement, including interstate, and 
foreign commerce, or harming, or attempting any of these actions, of 
San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, or Santa Catalina island foxes 
without a permit (research activities where San Miguel, Santa Rosa, 
Santa Cruz, or Santa Catalina island foxes are trapped or captured will 
require a permit under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Endangered Species 
    (2) The transportation of unvaccinated domestic animals, which 
transmit diseases or parasites to island foxes causing serious injury 
or death on the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, or Santa Catalina 
    (3) Destruction or alteration of occupied habitat of the San 
Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, or Santa Catalina island foxes (e.g., 
excavating, compacting, grading, discing, or removing soil or 
    (4) Destruction or alteration of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa 
Cruz, or Santa Catalina island fox dens, even when seasonally 
unoccupied when the destruction results in irreparable harm; and
    (5) Discharges or dumping of toxic chemicals, or other pollutants 
into San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, or Santa Catalina island fox 
habitat, including dens or burrows, that results in death or injury of 
the species or that results in degradation of their occupied habitat.
    Questions regarding whether specific activities would constitute a 
violation of section 9 should be directed to our Ventura Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).

Public Comments Solicited

    The Service intends that any final action resulting from this 
proposal will be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, 
comments or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning this proposed rule are hereby solicited. Comments 
particularly are sought concerning:
    (1) Biological, commercial, trade, or other relevant data 
concerning any threat (or lack thereof) to San Miguel, Santa Rosa, 
Santa Cruz, or Santa Catalina island foxes;
    (2) The reasons why any habitat should or should not be determined 
to be critical habitat pursuant to section 4 of the Act;
    (3) Additional information concerning the essential habitat 
features (biotic and abiotic), range, distribution, and population size 
of these taxa; and
    (4) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their 
possible impacts on these taxa.
    If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and materials 
concerning this proposal by any one of several methods, as listed above 
in ADDRESSES. If you submit comments by e-mail, please submit comments 
as an ASCII file format and avoid the use of special characters and 
encryption. Please include ``Attn: [RIN 1018-AI28]'' and your name and 
return address in your e-mail message. If you do not receive a 
confirmation from the system that we have received your e-mail message, 
contact us directly by calling our Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office at 
phone number 805/644-1766. Please note that this e-mail address will be 
closed out at the termination of the public comment period.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Commenters may request that we withhold their home 
address, which we will honor to the extent allowable by law. In some 
circumstances, we may also withhold a commenter's identity, as 
allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name or address, you 
must state this request prominently at the beginning of your comment. 
However, we will not consider anonymous comments. To the extent 
consistent with applicable law, we will make all submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety. Comments 
and materials received will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.
    You may request a public hearing on this proposal. Your request for 
a hearing must be made in writing and filed within 45 days of the date 
of publication of the proposal in the Federal Register. Address your 
requests to the Field Supervisor (see ADDRESSES section).

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 
34270), we will seek expert opinions of at least three appropriate 
independent specialists regarding this proposed rule. The purpose of 
such review is to ensure listing decisions are based on scientifically 
sound data, assumptions, and analysis. We will send copies of this 
proposed rule immediately following publication in the Federal Register 
to these peer reviewers. We will invite these peer reviewers to 
comment, during the public comment period, on the specific assumptions 
and conclusions regarding the proposed designation of critical habitat.

Executive Order 12866

    Executive Order 12866 requires agencies to write regulations that 
are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make this 
proposal easier to understand including answers to questions such as 
the following: (1) Is the discussion in the Supplementary Information 
section of the preamble helpful in understanding the proposal? (2) Does 
the proposal contain technical language or jargon that interferes with 
its clarity? (3) Does the format of the proposal (grouping and order of 
sections, use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) aid or reduce its 
clarity? What else could we do to make the proposal easier to 

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an environmental impact statement and 
environmental assessment, as defined under the authority of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in 
connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Act. A notice outlining the Service's reasons for this determination 
was published in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This rule does not contain any information collection requirements 
for which Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq., is required. Any 
information collection related to the rule pertaining to permits for 
endangered and threatened species has

[[Page 63665]]

OMB approval and is assigned clearance number 1018-0094. This rule does 
not alter that information collection requirement. For additional 
information concerning permits and associated requirements for 
endangered wildlife species, see 50 CFR 17.22.

Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued an Executive Order (E.O. 
13211) on regulations that significantly affect energy supply, 
distribution, and use. Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to 
prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. 
This rule is not expected to significantly affect energy supplies, 
distribution, or use. Therefore, this action is not a significant 
energy action and no Statement of Energy Effects is required.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 


    The primary author of this proposed rule is Bridget Fahey, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (see 
ADDRESSES section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
record keeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we hereby propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth 


    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500, unless otherwise noted.
    2. Section 17.11(h) is amended by adding the following, in 
alphabetical order under MAMMALS, to the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife:

Sec. 17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *
Fox, San Miguel Island...........  Urocyon littoralis    U.S.A., CA.........  U.S.A., CA.........  E               ...........           NA           NA
Fox, Santa Catalina Island.......  Urocyon littoralis    U.S.A., CA.........  U.S.A., CA.........  E               ...........           NA           NA
Fox, Santa Cruz Island...........  Urocyon littoralis    U.S.A., CA.........  U.S.A., CA.........  E               ...........           NA           NA
Fox, Santa Rosa Island...........  Urocyon littoralis    U.S.A., CA.........  U.S.A., CA.........  E               ...........           NA           NA

                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *

    Dated: November 29, 2001.
Marshall P. Jones, Jr.,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 01-30188 Filed 12-7-01; 8:45 am]