[Federal Register: March 5, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 44)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 10335-10353]
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: Final rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), determine 
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 (U. l. littoralis), Santa 
Rosa Island fox (U. l. santarosae), Santa Cruz Island fox (U. l. 
santacruzae), and Santa Catalina Island fox (U. l. catalinae). This 
final rule extends the Federal protection and recovery provisions of 
the Act to these subspecies.

DATES: This final rule is effective April 5, 2004.

ADDRESSES: The complete file for this rule is available for inspection, 
by appointment, during normal business hours at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, 
Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003.

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 that are each limited in range 
to a single island (Gilbert et al. 1990; Wayne et al. 1991; 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 very small canid, weighing approximately 3 to 6 
pounds (1.4 to 2.7 kilograms) and standing approximately 1 foot (0.3 
meter) tall. The tail is conspicuously short. Dorsal coloration is 
grayish-white and black. The base of the ears and sides of the neck and 
limbs are cinnamon-rufous in color, and the underbelly is a dull white. 
Island foxes display sexual size dimorphism (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 (Gilbert et al. 1990), possibly from chance overwater dispersal 
during which foxes rafted 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 ago (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 
semidomesticates (Collins 1991a, b). However, island fox remains 
recently recovered from San Nicolas Island suggest this introduction

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was earlier, approximately 5,200 years ago (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. 1991; Goldstein et al. 
1999). The smaller the island size the lower the island fox population 
size and genetic variability seems to be. 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 mammal populations. This lack of 
variability likely occurred as a result of a past population bottleneck 
(Gilbert et al. 1990; Goldstein et al. 1999); such a bottleneck 
occurred on San Nicolas Island in the mid-1970s (Laughrin 1980).
    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 foxes due to increased food availability, while Crooks and Van 
Vuren (1995) found island foxes to prefer fennel grasslands and avoid 
ravines and scrub oak (Quercus spp.) 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. Diet is determined largely by availability, which 
varies by habitat and island, as well on a seasonal and annual basis. 
Island foxes prey on native deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) and 
harvest mice (Reithrodontomys megalotis catalinae), as well as on 
introduced house mice (Mus musculus) and rats (Rattus rattus and R. 
norvegicus). 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), Catalina 
quail (Callipepla californica catalinensis), 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 arbutifolia), 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 Island, where island foxes 
rely more on the fruits of the lowgrowing sea-fig, Carpobrotus 
    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). Their more diurnal activity is thought to be a result of both 
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 59 acres (ac) (24 hectares (ha)) 
in mixed habitat (Crooks and Van Vuren 1996) and 214 ac (87 ha) in 
grassland habitat (Roemer 1999) on Santa Cruz Island, to 190 ac (77 ha) 
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 are common and often result in 
offspring. 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 (Bauman et al. 
2001), which means that female island foxes do not enter estrous unless 
males are present. 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, or hollow stump) is 
used (Laughrin 1977). Litter size ranges from one to five pups (Moore 
and Collins 1995). Laughrin (1977) found an average litter of 2.17 for 
24 dens on Santa Cruz Island; this estimate likely reflected the number 
of pups weaned rather than born. The average size of 35 litters born in 
captivity since 1999 is 2.3 (Coonan et al. in prep.). Both island fox 
parents 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 2003a). 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

[[Page 10337]]

most important factor influencing population growth rate (Roemer 1999; 
Roemer et al. 2001b, d). 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. 
1998). Island foxes may live 8 to 10 years in captivity or in the wild 
in the absence of catastrophic mortality forces (Tim Coonan, National 
Park Service, in litt. 2002).
    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, with an 
average of 21.3 foxes per mi\2\ (8.2 foxes per km\2\) in 1994 (Roemer 
et al. 1994).
    San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa Catalina island foxes 
have experienced precipitous declines in the last 8 years (Coonan et 
al. 1998, 2000; Roemer 1999; Timm et al. 2000; Roemer et al. 2001b). 
The island fox population on San Nicolas Island has remained stable and 
the population on San Clemente appears to have experienced a gradual 
decline. Total island fox numbers rangewide have fallen from 
approximately 6,000 individuals in 1994 (Roemer et al. 1994) to fewer 
than 1,660 individuals in 2003 (Coonan 2003b). By 2001, island fox 
populations on San Miguel and Santa Cruz Islands had declined by an 
estimated 80 to 90 percent and were found to have a 50 percent chance 
of extinction over the next 5 to 10 years (Roemer 1999; Roemer et al. 
2001b). 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 2003a). 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. 2001c). On Santa Catalina, island fox 
populations all but disappeared from the larger eastern portion of the 
island. This decline is attributed to 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 approximately 595 and 614 individuals, respectively (D. 
Garcelon, unpublished data; Schmidt and Garcelon 2003). San Clemente 
Island has not experienced the sharp declines seen on other islands; 
however, 13 years of trapping data indicate that island fox densities 
have slowly declined 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 (Schmidt and Garcelon 
2003), and low genetic variability (Wayne et al. 1991) increase the 
vulnerability of this subspecies (Roemer 1999). Protective measures 
have been put in place on these islands, such as reducing speed limits, 
educating island inhabitants and visitors, implementing a wildfire 
management plan, managing feral cat populations, administering canine 
distemper vaccinations, and removing all feral ungulates, to prevent 
further decline of these two subspecies. The statuses of these 
subspecies are discussed further in Issue 16 under our responses to 
public comments.

San Miguel Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis littoralis)

    San Miguel Island is owned by the Department of the Navy but is 
managed by the National Park Service as part of the Channel Islands 
National Park through a series of memoranda of understanding between 
these agencies. 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 7 foxes per square mile 
(mi\2\) (2.7 foxes per square kilometer (km\2\)), although this may be 
an underestimate. In the late 1970s, the island foxes on San Miguel had 
an average density of 12 foxes per mi\2\ (4.6 foxes per km\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 1993, when the NPS instituted a long-term population study, 
which recorded an average density of 20 foxes per mi\2\ (7.7 foxes per 
km\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 island fox 
densities higher than previously recorded (41 foxes per mi\2\ (15.8 
foxes per km\2\) in one study area), resulting in an island-wide 
estimate of 450 adults (Coonan et al. 1998). Annual 
populationmonitoring using capture-mark-recapture techniques documented 
a substantial decline in island fox populations on San Miguel Island 
between 1994 and 1999 (Coonan et al. 1998; Coonan et al. in review). 
During this time period, island fox populations dropped from an 
estimated 450 adults in 1994 (Coonan et al. 1998) to 15 foxes in 1999 
(T. Coonan, unpublished data) as a result of predation by golden 
    In 1999, NPS captured 14 (4 males and 10 females) of the 15 
remaining foxes from San Miguel Island to protect the subspecies from 
further losses from predation by golden eagles and to initiate a 
captive propagation program. The remaining island fox, a lone female, 
evaded capture efforts until September 2003, when she was captured and 
brought into captivity. Four years' captive breeding has increased the 
captive San Miguel Island fox population to 38 individuals.
    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; Sharon Patton, 
University of Tennessee, pers. comm. 2003). 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 reported 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 
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.
    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

[[Page 10338]]

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 (Coonan and Rutz 2002).

Santa Rosa Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis santarosae)

    Santa Rosa Island is owned and managed by the NPS. The earliest 
island fox trapping study from Santa Rosa reported a trapping 
efficiency of 50 percent and a density of 11 foxes per mi2 
(4.2 foxes per km2) (Laughrin 1973). Few population data 
have been collected on Santa Rosa Island foxes since Laughrin's 
studies. Although population monitoring was not conducted on Santa Rosa 
Island during the period of decline, trapping data collected in 1998 
and 2000, as well as anecdotal evidence, suggested that Santa Rosa 
experienced a decline similar to those on Santa Cruz and San Miguel 
Islands (Roemer 1999; Roemer et al. 2001b). During 132 trap nights in 
1998, trap success was 4.8 percent, and only 9 individuals were 
captured (Roemer 1999). Anecdotal sightings by park and ranch staff in 
the late 1990s became much less frequent than in previous years (Coonan 
    Believing that fewer than 100 island foxes remained on Santa Rosa 
Island (T. Coonan, pers. comm. 1999), the NPS captured 14 adult foxes 
(5 males and 9 females) to initiate captive breeding in March 2000. The 
last known fox in the wild on Santa Rosa Island was brought into 
captivity in March 2001 (Coonan and Rutz 2002). Three years' captive 
breeding has increased the captive population to 56 (Coonan 2003b). As 
with San Miguel Island, approximately half the captive foxes were moved 
to a second facility in October 2001 (Coonan and Rutz 2002).
    Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and elk (Cervus elaphus) are present on 
Santa Rosa Island and assist in supporting breeding golden eagles, the 
main predator of island fox. Deer numbers in 2002 fluctuated between 
424 and 686 deer (Schreiner et al. 2003), while approximately 601 elk 
remain on the island (Nathan Vail, in litt. 2003). Numbers of deer and 
elk are presently at their lowest numbers since the herds were 
established, as the result of a negotiated settlement agreement between 
the NPS and the commercial hunting operation managing the herds. The 
presence of these ungulates on the island likely facilitates the 
presence of golden eagles in two ways: (1) Deer fawns provide live prey 
for golden eagles as evidenced by prey remains found in nests (Coonan 
2003a); and (2) carcasses of deer and elk from an annual hunt and 
subsequent cull provide golden eagles with a food source at a time of 
year where food resources are usually depleted. Through a settlement 
between the special use permittee and the NPS, deer and elk will be 
removed from the island by 2011, with populations slated for decrease 
beginning in 2008.

Santa Cruz Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis santacruzae)

    The majority (75 percent) of Santa Cruz Island is owned by The 
Nature Conservancy, with the remaining 25 percent owned by NPS. 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 20.4 foxes per mi2 (7.9 foxes per 
km2) (Laughrin 1980). Following Laughrin's studies, island 
fox populations on Santa Cruz Island were not surveyed again until 
1993, when the average density was 21.2 foxes per mi2 (8.2 
foxes per km2) (Roemer et al. 1994). Since that time, the 
population has decreased from an estimated 1,312 in 1993 to 133 
individuals in 1999 (Roemer 1999; Roemer et al. 1994, 2001b). In 1998, 
trapping efficiency was low (2.9 percent), and island fox density 
ranged from 0.0 to 6.2 foxes per mi2 (0.0 to 2.4 foxes per 
km2), the lowest ever reported from Santa Cruz Island 
(Roemer 1999).
    Population monitoring efforts in 2001 yielded captures of 75 
individual foxes. Of these, 27 were outfitted with radio collars. The 
highest numbers of foxes were captured in the areas of relatively high 
cover. Five of the 27 radio-collared foxes died during 2001; their 
deaths were attributed to predation by golden eagles (David Garcelon, 
Institute for Wildlife Studies, pers. comm. 2001a). 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 (Coonan 2001).'' Intensive trapping efforts to capture and 
relocate the remaining golden eagles in the spring and summer of 2001 
resulted in three captures; however, four eagles remained on the island 
(B. Latta, pers. comm. 2001). Thus, the NPS and The Nature Conservancy 
(TNC) initiated captive breeding of island foxes on Santa Cruz Island 
in early 2002 (Coonan and Rutz 2003).
    During 2002, 18 island foxes on Santa Cruz Island were captured and 
brought into captivity. One of these foxes gave birth to 5 pups, 3 of 
which were released back into the wild, bringing the total captive 
population to 20 by December 2002 (Coonan and Rutz 2003). An additional 
10 pups born in 2003 brought the total captive population to 30 
    Islandwide transect trapping in 2002 revealed that a minimum of 68 
foxes were alive in the wild on Santa Cruz Island (D. Garcelon, 
unpublished data). Additional island foxes are expected to be present 
on the island, but the total number of island foxes in the wild is 
likely fewer than 100 (Schmidt and Garcelon 2003). Since December 2000, 
the Institute for Wildlife Studies has radio-tracked 53 individual 
foxes. Twenty of these foxes have died; 16 of the 20 mortalities were 
attributed to golden eagle predation based on physical evidence at the 
carcass recovery site (Institute for Wildlife Studies, unpublished 
    Annual survivorship of wild island foxes on Santa Cruz Island, as 
determined by ongoing radiotelemetry, was 61 percent in 2001 and 70 
percent in 2002. Golden eagle trapping appears to have improved annual 
survivorship of island foxes, as the 2001 and 2002 survivorship is 
significantly higher than the 39 percent survivorship recorded during 
the island fox population decline. However, an island fox population 
model indicates that survivorship needs to be at least 80 percent in 
order for the populations to stabilize or increase (Roemer et al. in 
    Santa Cruz Island is currently occupied by a large feral pig (Sus 
scrofa) population (estimated at approximately 3,000 to 5,000 
individuals), which facilitates the colonization of the island by 
golden eagles. TNC and the NPS are planning to begin an islandwide pig 
eradication program in spring 2004, which will take years to complete 
(NPS 2002).

Santa Catalina Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis catalinae)

    Twelve percent of Catalina Island is in private ownership, while 
the remaining 88 percent is owned by the Catalina Island Conservancy. 
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

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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 
estimated density of 0.3 fox per mi2 (0.1 fox per 
km2) (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 those on the other islands. Island fox 
numbers on Santa Catalina Island increased slightly between 1975 and 
1977, with average estimated densities of 0.77 fox per mi2 
(0.29 fox per km2) (Propst 1975) and 0.8 fox per 
mi2 (0.30 fox per km2) (Laughrin 1980). During 
1989 and 1990, average density estimates increased, ranging from 6.7 to 
33.1 foxes per mi2 (2.6 to 12.8 foxes per km2) 
(Garcelon et al. 1991). The Santa Catalina Island fox population 
increased to an estimated 1,342 foxes by 1994 (Roemer et al. 1994).
    In 1999, the Santa Catalina Island fox population experienced a 
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 of 
40,000 ac (16,190 ha) and a small western side of 8,000 ac (3,240 ha) 
by a narrow isthmus, which has apparently served as a barrier to the 
canine distemper virus. Anecdotal accounts of fox absence in the summer 
of 1999 resulted in renewed trapping efforts to ascertain the status of 
the species, and investigation of a potential disease-related decline. 
Two live foxes and one deceased fox recovered from the eastern portion 
of the island tested positive for canine distemper virus or had high 
antibody titers (a measure of concentration), constituting the first 
positive record of canine distemper in island foxes (Timm et al. 2000). 
Previous studies had found no evidence of canine distemper in Santa 
Catalina Island foxes (Garcelon et al. 1992). A trapping effort 
conducted during this time period resulted in a minimum population 
estimate of only 100 foxes for the year 2000 (Kohlmann et al. 2003), 
compared to an islandwide population estimate of 1,342 foxes reported 
in 1994 (Roemer et al. 1994).
    Island fox trapping efforts during 2000 and 2001 resulted in 
capture of 137 island foxes on the western end and 37 on the eastern 
portion of Santa Catalina Island, and a conservative population 
estimate of 225 foxes islandwide (Kohlmann et al. 2003; D. Garcelon, 
unpublished data). Monitoring conducted in 2001 and 2002 resulted in 
capture of 161 individuals (67 at the east end, 94 at the west end) and 
a conservative population estimate of 215 foxes islandwide (119 on the 
west end, and 96 on the east end) (Kohlmann et al. 2003).
    A captive propagation program for the Santa Catalina Island fox was 
initiated in 2001. 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. The pregnant 
females from the founder group 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 were 
released onto the east end of the island in the fall of 2001. Eight 
pups were released as part of this program in 2002, and 15 were 
released in 2003. During 2002, 10 additional foxes were brought into 
captivity from the west end to replace captive breeding stock. Early 
results of the captive breeding-release program are promising. Of the 
14 pups released in 2001 and 2002, 11 are known to be alive and at 
least 3 captive reared foxes are reproducing (Institute for Wildlife 
Studies, unpublished data).
    In addition to the captive breeding program, the Santa Catalina 
Conservancy and the Institute for Wildlife Studies initiated a 
translocation program in 2001 to re-establish island foxes on the east 
side of the island. Seven of 10 juvenile island foxes were relocated 
from the west end to the east end in 2001, and all of the 12 foxes that 
were relocated in 2002 remain in the population (Institute for Wildlife 
Studies, unpublished data). The translocation effort has been 
discontinued to avoid adverse effects to the west end population, but 
appears to have been successful as a population augmentation mechanism 
for the east end. At least 6 of the translocated foxes are known to be 
reproducing on the east end, and at least 4 pups have been produced in 
the wild by translocated animals.

Previous Federal Action

    We published an updated candidate Notice of Review (NOR) 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 the 1996 and subsequent NORs until our October 30, 2001 (66 
FR 54808), NOR in which the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and 
Santa Catalina Island foxes were included as candidate species. 
Candidate species are those species being considered for listing by the 
Secretary but which are not yet the subject of a proposed listing rule 
(50 CFR 424.02(b).
    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 
initially did not issue a 90-day finding in response to 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. In the October 30, 
2001, NOR, however, the island foxes were included as candidate species 
for which listing was warranted but precluded by higher priority 
listing actions (66 FR 54808); as noted in the NOR, the Service 
considered that the island foxes, and all other candidate species, as 
having been subject to a positive 90-day finding and a warranted-but-
precluded 12-month finding (66 FR 54814). We proposed to list the four 
subspecies of island fox on December 10, 2001 (66 FR 63654). The 
proposed rule satisfied 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.
    On April 22, 2003, the Center filed suit against the Service for 
failure to finalize the listing and for failure to publish a final 
determination regarding critical habitat. (Center for Biological 
Diversity v. Williams, et al. No. CV-03-2729 AHM). In a settlement of 
that lawsuit, the Service agreed to submit the final listing 
determination to the Federal Register on or by March 1, 2004, and if 
prudent, submit a proposed rule to designate critical habitat to the 
Federal Register on or by October 1, 2004, and a final determination 
regarding critical habitat on or by November 1, 2005.

Summary of Comments and Responses

    In the December 10, 2001, proposed rule (66 FR 63654), we requested 
all interested parties to submit factual

[[Page 10340]]

reports or information that might contribute to development of a final 
rule. A 60-day comment period closed on February 8, 2002. We contacted 
appropriate Federal agencies, State agencies, county and city 
governments, scientific organizations, and other interested parties and 
requested comments, and notified affected landowners of the proposed 
listing. We published public notices of the proposed rule, which 
invited general public comment, in the Santa Barbara News Press and 
Ventura County Star on December 15, 2001. We requested peer review in 
compliance with our policy, published in the Federal Register on July 
1, 1994 (59 FR 34270). We did not receive any requests for a public 
hearing, and no public meeting was held.
    During the public comment period, we received written comments from 
11 individuals, businesses, and organizations. In all, one commenter 
opposed the listing and two supported continued protection of the 
subspecies proposed for listing. The remaining eight commenters stated 
neither opposition nor support for the ruling, but provided additional 
information on the causes of decline and threats to the island fox. 
Issues raised by the commenters, and our response to each, are 
summarized below.
    Issue 1: Several commenters stated that the rule lists the 
introduction of non-native herbivores as the primary cause of the fox 
decline. One commenter further pointed out that, if non-native 
herbivores were the cause of decline, the fox population on Santa Rosa 
Island should have been decimated in the 1870s, when more than 100,000 
head of sheep (Ovis aries) were present. Several commenters noted that 
foxes flourished for over 130 years with extensive grazing by cattle 
(Bos taurus) and sheep, and for close to 70 years with the added 
presence of pigs, elk, and deer.
    Our response: Although the degradation of habitat that occurred due 
to the introduction of non-native herbivores is the first threat 
presented in the rule (under Factor A), this threat was not identified 
as the primary cause of the island fox decline. The Service concluded 
that the primary cause of decline for island foxes is from predation by 
golden eagles on Santa Cruz, San Miguel, and Santa Rosa Islands and 
canine distemper on Santa Catalina Island. However, the introduction of 
non-native mammals to the northern Channel Islands has facilitated 
declines of island foxes in two ways: (1) By type-converting woodland 
and scrub habitats to open grasslands comprised of non-native annual 
grasses, it greatly reduces the amount of cover available to island 
foxes and (2) feral pigs and deer provide an unnatural prey base for 
golden eagles, which has facilitated the colonization of the northern 
Channel Islands by golden eagles. Removing non-native animals is 
essential to break the link that attracts golden eagles to the northern 
islands, where they also prey on island foxes.
    Issue 2: Several commenters pointed out that the rapid decline in 
fox populations over the last 6 years occurred concurrently with the 
removal of non-native species, including pigs and cattle, and the 
reduction of deer and elk. The commenters proposed that the removal of 
non-native species caused the decline of the island foxes.
    Our response: Declines of island foxes only occurred concurrently 
with the removal of non-native species on Santa Rosa Island. On San 
Miguel Island, no non-native species removal programs occurred during 
the period of decline, and on Santa Cruz Island, 9,000 sheep were 
removed after island fox numbers had declined. An analysis of the best 
available data regarding the island fox population declines (Coonan et 
al. 2000; Roemer et al. 2001b and 2002; Coonan 2003) has not revealed a 
causal link between the removal of cattle on Santa Rosa Island and the 
decline. The removal of cattle from Santa Rosa Island may have 
negatively affected foxes, as the cattle fed on the non-native annual 
grasses and kept them in check. Although island foxes may have been 
negatively affected by the proliferation of non-native annual grasses 
following the removal of cattle (Roemer and Wayne 2003), we do not 
believe that this was the cause of decline. As described in the rule, 
predation by golden eagles is the primary cause of decline on the three 
northern Channel Islands. We are not aware of any data that show that 
the decline of island foxes is due to the removal of non-native 
herbivores. In addition, island foxes existed on the islands for 
thousands of years without the presence of deer, elk, pigs, and cattle. 
Therefore, it seems unlikely that removing non-native species would 
cause a decline in island foxes.
    Issue 3: Two commenters recommended that objective research be 
conducted prior to the removal of deer and elk on Santa Rosa Island to 
study the impacts of removing non-native animals. Another commenter 
asked if the Service or NPS had conducted any research to find out if 
pigs and cattle have a positive impact on fox populations.
    Our response: We are not aware of any studies that have been or are 
planned to be conducted on these subjects. Funding for research has 
been focused on those areas identified as being most crucial for the 
recovery of the island fox. On Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel 
islands, financial resources have gone into removing the primary 
threat, golden eagles, and constructing and operating captive breeding 
facilities. Because island foxes existed on all islands for thousands 
of years without the presence of deer, elk, pigs, and cattle, the 
Service concludes that removing these species should not affect the 
long-term conservation of island foxes once the ecosystem has been 
restored to more natural conditions.
    The Service, the NPS, and the Island Fox Conservation Working Group 
have identified a concern with the timing of eradication of pigs from 
Santa Cruz Island. Pig carcasses will be left to decompose on the 
island, rather than being transported to the mainland. If golden eagles 
remain on the island, the widespread availability of pig carcasses may 
increase golden eagle numbers and impede capture efforts by making bait 
less attractive. In addition, once pigs have been removed or their 
numbers substantially decreased, lingering golden eagles may switch to 
island foxes remaining in the wild. The Service, NPS, and TNC are 
working to develop measures to decrease the probability of the negative 
effects of pig removal on island foxes. Although the removal of pigs 
may have short-term negative effects on island foxes, this action is 
essential to deter golden eagles from colonizing the islands, and will 
facilitate the long-term recovery of the island fox.
    Issue 4: One commenter noted that after burros (Equus asinus) were 
removed from San Miguel Island, vegetation piled up, making the island 
impossible to penetrate. The conversion of once-open hunting grounds to 
impenetrable forest may have affected the ability of foxes to find 
    Our response: No impenetrable forests currently exist on San Miguel 
Island. When the San Miguel Island fox began to decline, the NPS 
conducted a study to determine if food availability was the cause of 
decline. They concluded that the availability of food was not the cause 
of decline (Coonan et al. 1998; Crowell 2001). Numbers of alligator 
lizards (Gerrhonotus multicarinatus), mice, and sea-figs, important 
components of the San Miguel Island fox diet, did not decrease during 
the period of decline. In addition, the decrease in fox numbers was not

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accompanied by declines in adult fox weight, making lack of food 
unlikely as a cause of decline.
    Issue 5: One commenter stated that the removal of greater than 
35,000 sheep and 3,000 cattle on Santa Cruz Island resulted in an 
explosion of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), which now forms ``miles of 
impenetrable fennel-forests.'' The commenter poses that the loss of the 
island foxes' open hunting habitat caused the population crash. Another 
commenter speculated that foxes needed the more open habitat that 
grazing animals provided on all islands, and the removal of those 
animals led to the decline.
    Our response: Non-native fennel covers approximately 10 percent of 
Santa Cruz Island (Breton and Klinger 1994). The densest stands of 
fennel are concentrated in approximately 1,800 ac (730 ha) (in the 
isthmus area; an additional 1,600 acres in the central valley on Santa 
Cruz Island are dominated by fennel (NPS 2002). The best available data 
do not support the conclusion that island foxes find the fennel to be 
impenetrable. In a recent study to determine distribution and abundance 
of island foxes on Santa Cruz Island, most foxes were found in the 
central valley and isthmus area. Of the 82 foxes trapped during the 
study, 22 were trapped in the thick fennel stands on the isthmus 
(Dennis et al. 2001). The high percentage of island foxes found in 
these stands may be due to the fact that the fennel provides foxes with 
cover from aerial predation by golden eagles. Crooks and Van Vuren 
(1995) found more foxes in the fennel grasslands than in ravines and 
patches of scrub oak on the isthmus. As with San Miguel Island, no 
available data support the idea that island foxes were limited by food 
availability. Although island foxes (pre-decline) could be found in all 
vegetative community types occurring on the island, they appear to 
prefer vegetative communities that provide some cover. As described 
above, for most of the island foxes' evolutionary history, non-native 
herbivores were not present on the islands. Because island foxes 
existed for thousands of years in the more dense vegetation with 
increased cover that occurred on the island before the introduction of 
non-native herbivores, removing these species should not affect the 
long-term conservation of island foxes once the other threats to its 
continued existence have been removed.
    Issue 6: One commenter pointed out that the decrease in the fox 
population coincided with increased trapping and fox studies by the NPS 
and other scientists, and that it is possible that humans played a role 
in the population decline.
    Our response: The best available data do not support a causal link 
between the increased trapping and studies by scientists. In fact, no 
trapping of island foxes occurred during declines on Santa Catalina and 
Santa Rosa islands. Surveys that include capture and handling of island 
foxes are conducted biannually on San Nicolas Island, which has had 
stable or increasing island fox numbers for approximately a decade. 
Between 2000 and 2003 (following the decline on Santa Catalina Island), 
the Catalina Island Conservancy increased capture and handling of 
island foxes. During this time period, the size of the island fox 
population has increased.
    Issue 7: One commenter asked about the sizes of the fox populations 
on the Channel Islands prior to the influence of Europeans.
    Our response: We have no data on fox numbers on the Channel Islands 
prior to the influence of Europeans. We do know from the fossil record 
that foxes existed on the islands; however, this information cannot be 
used to determine numbers.
    Issue 8: One commenter stated that government efforts to rescue 
island foxes will fail because the foxes are being managed as a 
``climax'' species.
    Our response: We are not sure what the commenter meant by managing 
foxes as a ``climax'' species. Island foxes are found in all habitats 
on the island, including native habitats such as oak woodlands. Our 
management for island foxes has focused on addressing the primary 
causes of decline (golden eagles on the northern Channel Islands and 
canine distemper on Santa Catalina Island) and on captive propagation 
of island foxes to bolster numbers.
    Issue 9: Two commenters disputed the conclusion that the presence 
of deer on Santa Rosa Island is a threat to the fox, as the deer 
``likely'' compete for flowering and fruiting branches of native 
shrubs. One commenter stated that no scientific evidence is cited to 
support this assertion.
    Our response: Competition between deer and island foxes has not 
been studied on Santa Rosa Island. In the presence of a healthy island 
fox population, competition for food resources with deer may occur. 
Deer have been shown to have a significant browsing effect that reduces 
the amount of flowering and seed production on the Santa Rosa Island 
manzanita (Arctostaphylos confertiflora) on some study plots (Schreiner 
et al. 2003).
    Issue 10: Three commenters pointed out that Santa Rosa Island foxes 
may have been supported in large part by carrion available from the 300 
to 400 feral pigs shot annually, as well as from the normal death of 
piglets. In addition, carrion from cattle, elk, and deer would have 
been available to island foxes. The decline of island foxes on Santa 
Rosa Island corresponded with the removal of pigs from the island.
    Our response: Island foxes are omnivorous and do feed upon carrion, 
when available. No studies of food availability were conducted on Santa 
Rosa Island during the period of decline; however, environmental 
conditions should have been similar to those on San Miguel Island, 
where food availability was ruled out as a cause of decline (Coonan et 
al. 1998; Crowell 2001). Although the decline of island foxes on Santa 
Rosa Island occurred after pig removal, the best available data 
concerning island fox declines do not implicate feral pig removal as 
the cause of the declines (Coonan et al. 2000; Roemer et al. 2001b and 
2002; Coonan 2003). We believe that removing pigs has had a net 
beneficial effect on island foxes, by removing the food source that 
supports their main predator, the golden eagle thereby discouraging 
golden eagles from staying on the islands.
    Issue 11: One commenter pointed out that there is some disagreement 
on which habitats island foxes prefer, and that scrub and woodland 
habitat exist on Santa Rosa Island, yet no foxes remain.
    Our response: The proposed rule states that the island fox is a 
habitat generalist, occurring in all habitats found on the islands. 
Some authors have indicated that island foxes 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 (1995) found island foxes to prefer fennel 
grasslands and avoid ravines and scrub oak patches. Because of the 
generalist nature of the island fox, studies conducted at different 
times under variable environmental conditions may produce different 
results. Scrub and woodland habitat only comprise about 5 percent of 
Santa Rosa Island; the majority of the island is covered by non-native 
annual grasslands (Clark et al. 1990). Although some habitats providing 
cover do remain on Santa Rosa Island, these habitats have not protected 
island foxes from golden eagle predation, as no island foxes currently 
exist in the wild on the island.
    Issue 12: Several commenters stated that the island fox decline on 

[[Page 10342]]

Rosa Island coincided with NPS assumption of the ranch. These 
commenters recommended further investigation of NPS management as a 
cause of decline.
    Our response: The best available data concerning the island fox 
decline on Santa Rosa Island points to the golden eagle as the cause of 
decline (Roemer 1999; Roemer et al. 2001b, 2002; Coonan 2003b; Coonan 
et al. in review; Institute for Wildlife Studies unpublished data). We 
are aware of no information that indicates that NPS management was 
responsible for the presence of golden eagles on the island. We are 
also not aware of other data supporting NPS management as a cause of 
decline. See responses to issues 2, 5 and 6.
    Issue 13: Two commenters doubted the importance of golden eagle 
predation in the island fox declines. One only rarely observed golden 
eagles on the Santa Rosa Island, while another asked if there have been 
sightings of numerous successful hunting attempts by golden eagles on 
island foxes.
    Our response: Direct observations of golden eagles on the northern 
Channel Islands have been rare, even by teams of biologists working on 
golden eagle removal. However, golden eagles commonly leave behind 
evidence of island fox carcasses that leaves little doubt as to their 
involvement. Specific evidence found at numerous fox carcasses 
implicating golden eagle predation includes plucking spots, golden 
eagle feathers, talon holes, and carcasses typically left by eagles 
(evisceration, degloving of limbs (i.e., pulling flesh away from bone 
as in removing a glove), damage to fragile bones). In addition, 
numerous island fox bones have been found in golden eagle nests on 
Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands (Latta 2001; B. Latta, pers. comm. 
2003), indicating that golden eagles were present on the island before 
2000 and preyed upon island foxes.
    Issue 14: One commenter stated that golden eagles had been regular 
visitors to the islands for years and that island foxes had dealt with 
aerial predators for eons. Also, due to the more nocturnal nature of 
foxes, they would not be visible when golden eagles were foraging.
    Our response: The behavior of the island fox suggests an 
evolutionary history lacking in predation. As described in the proposed 
rule, 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). Although island foxes 
are primarily nocturnal, they exhibit more diurnal behavior than 
mainland gray foxes and can commonly be seen during the daytime. 
Evidence of golden eagle predation at island fox carcass sites, as well 
as the remains of island foxes found in a nest on Santa Rosa Island, 
indicate that golden eagles are finding and preying upon island foxes.
    Issue 15: One commenter was skeptical that introducing bald eagles 
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus) would assist the island fox situation.
    Our response: We acknowledge that the effectiveness of bald eagles 
in assisting with island fox recovery is uncertain. Restoring bald 
eagles to the northern Channel Islands may deter future golden eagles 
from becoming resident and attempting to nest on the islands, 
especially if the majority of the prey base for the golden eagle is 
removed. Bald and golden eagles are fairly equally matched in 
interspecific antagonistic interactions; in most cases, the territory 
holder will have the advantage (B. Latta, pers. comm. 2001). If bald 
eagles successfully breed and create territories, they may be able to 
discourage future colonization by nonterritorial golden eagles. 
However, our recovery actions for the island fox do not hinge upon the 
success of bald eagle reintroduction. Removing golden eagles and 
conditions attracting them to the islands is the singlemost important 
recovery action for the Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel island 
fox and will be implemented regardless of the status of bald eagles on 
the islands. Unlike golden eagles, which forage on land, bald eagles 
are primarily marine feeders, and coexisted with island foxes in the 
past. Remains from an historic bald eagle nest indicate that island 
foxes constituted less than 0.5 percent of faunal elements found, and 
these remains were speculated to be scavenged rather than hunted 
(Collins et al. 2003; Paul Collins, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural 
History, pers. comm. 2003).
    Issue 16: Two commenters questioned why the proposed listing rule 
did not include the San Clemente Island fox and the San Nicolas Island 
fox subspecies, as these populations also have threats to their 
continued existence. San Nicolas Island foxes have unusually low 
genetic variability, increasing their susceptibility to disease. One 
commenter presented information concerning threats to the San Clemente 
Island fox from the management program for the San Clemente loggerhead 
shrike (Lanius ludovicianus mearnsi). Another commenter disputed the 
characterization contained in the proposed rule that the decline of the 
San Clemente Island fox population was ``slow,'' pointing out that the 
decline, if continued over time, would probably lead to extinction in 
the next 100 years.
    Our response: We limited our analysis in the proposed rule to the 
four subspecies on which we were petitioned. The petition included 
substantial information concerning the threats to these four 
subspecies. We did not receive a petition for the San Clemente and San 
Nicolas island subspecies. In addition, because we determined that 
listing was not needed, we did not make these subspecies candidates in 
the October 2001 NOR. We will continue to monitor the San Nicolas 
Island fox and San Clemente Island fox to determine if they warrant 
    Issue 17: Three commenters stated that the entire island fox 
species should be listed, as with precipitous declines on 4 of 6 
islands where it occurs, it meets the definition of endangered: ``any 
species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range.''
    Our response: The Endangered Species Act allows for listing of 
species, subspecies, or distinct population segments. Because island 
foxes have subspecific status on each island where they occur, this 
taxonomic level is the appropriate level upon which to evaluate our 
listing decisions. As discussed previously, the island foxes on San 
Clemente Island and San Nicolas Island do not warrant listing under the 

Peer Review

    In accordance with our July 1, 1994, Interagency Cooperative Policy 
for Peer Review in Endangered Species Act Activities (59 FR 34270), we 
solicited review from five experts in the fields of ecology, 
conservation, genetics, taxonomy, pathology, and management. Four of 
these have direct experience with island foxes, while the fifth is a 
well-known mammalogist. The purpose of such a review is to ensure that 
listing decisions are based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, 
and analyses, including input from appropriate experts. Three reviewers 
sent us letters during the public comment period supporting the listing 
of the four island fox subspecies. All three provided corrections on 
minor factual issues, interpretation of data, and citations. One 
recommended that the entire island fox species be listed, while another 
recommended further scrutiny and monitoring for the San Clemente Island 
fox. Their information has been incorporated, as appropriate.

[[Page 10343]]

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 altered by a history of livestock grazing, 
cultivation, and other disturbance. A century and a half of grazing by 
non-native herbivores, including sheep, goats (Capra hircus), rabbits 
(Oryctolagus cuniculus), deer, elk, cattle, pigs, 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 
discussed in our 1997 listing of 13 endemic island plants as endangered 
or threatened (62 FR 40954).
    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 and 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 non-native 
annual grasses can become lodged in the eyes of island foxes, causing 
occasional damage or temporary blindness (Laughrin 1977).
    In summary, the habitat of island foxes on all islands has been 
subject to substantial human-induced changes over the past 150 years. 
Although these changes have resulted in some adverse effects to island 
foxes described above, they are unlikely to have directly caused the 
observed declines. However, the habitat changes indirectly contributed 
to the effects of other factors (e.g., predation) by reducing the 
amount of vegetative cover available to island foxes.
    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; Roemer et al. 2001b, 2002; 
Coonan et al. in review). Roemer (1999) linked 19 of 21 documented 
island fox mortalities on Santa Cruz Island between April 1994 and July 
1997 to golden eagles. Most (90 percent) of these mortalities occurred 
in 18 months between April 1994 and September 1995. On San Miguel 
Island, 5 of 7 mortalities of radio-collared foxes were attributed to 
golden eagle predation between 1998 and 1999 (Roemer et al. 2001b; 
Coonan et al. in review). No mortality 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 experienced similar 
predation pressures from golden eagles.
    As island foxes did not evolve with 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. 2001b). 
Golden eagle predation continues to be the leading cause of mortality 
of island foxes on Santa Cruz Island. In 3 years of islandwide radio 
tracking on the island, 16 of 20 island fox mortalities were attributed 
to golden eagle predation (Institute for Wildlife Studies, unpublished 
data). Annual survivorship of Santa Cruz Island foxes, as estimated 
from radiotelemetry, was 61 percent in 2001 and 70 percent in 2002 
(Coonan 2003b). This level of survivorship is below the 80 percent 
required for an increasing island fox population (Roemer et al. in 
    The current level of golden eagle activity on the northern Channel 
Islands is unprecedented (Roemer et al. 2002). 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 on the Channel Islands was located on Santa 
Cruz Island in 1999 (Latta 2001), but golden eagles were likely 
established on the island as early as 1994 (Roemer et al. 2001b). 
Island fox remains, along with the remains of feral piglets, common 
ravens (Corvus corax), Brandt's cormorants (Phalacrocorax pencillatus), 
and western gulls (Larus occidentalis), were found in the nest. In 
September 1999, surveys by the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group 
(SCPBRG) identified 12 resident golden eagles, including possibly 5 
breeding pairs on Santa Cruz Island.
    At the time we published the proposed rule, golden eagles breeding 
on Santa Cruz Island were thought to ``commute'' to Santa Rosa and San 
Miguel Islands to feed. On Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands, eagles 
find fewer alternative prey species to island foxes (e.g., no feral 
pigs on Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands as occur on Santa Cruz 
Island) and foxes have less cover from vegetation to hide them from 
avian predators (Roemer 1999). However, since the proposed rule was 
published, we have obtained information that two breeding pairs 
appeared to have successfully bred on Santa Rosa Island during the 
period when island fox numbers were declining (Latta 2003). Remains of 
island foxes, deer fawns, and numerous birds were found during an 
excavation of one of the nests on Santa Rosa Island, indicating that 
golden eagles were breeding on the island before island foxes were 
taken into captivity in 1999 and 2000.
    Before golden eagles started using 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 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

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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). The northern Channel Islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, 
and San Miguel) likely supported more than 14 pairs of bald eagles 
before their decline (Kiff 1980).
    Roemer et al. (2001b) 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 hyperpredation, defined as when 
the availability of one prey species, that can sustain high predation 
rates, leads to the extinction of another prey species that becomes an 
alternate food resource for a shared predator (Courchamp et al. 1999). 
In this case, the large feral pig population provided sufficient prey 
base for the golden eagle to colonize Santa Cruz Island: A resident 
golden eagle population could not have been supported by the native 
terrestrial vertebrate fauna alone (Roemer et al. 2001b). Their model 
indicates that as few as 6 golden eagles could have driven the island 
fox populations to the current low levels. Between 1999 and the 
present, 31 golden eagles have been translocated from Santa Cruz Island 
(Latta 2003). Currently, 8 golden eagles are thought to remain on the 
islands. Three adults that have bred or attempted breeding in the past 
are thought to be on Santa Rosa Island, while 3 (3 breeding adults and 
2 subadults) remain on Santa Cruz Island.
    The remaining golden eagles constitute a substantial threat, 
seriously jeopardizing the success of releases of captive island foxes 
on San Miguel and Santa Rosa Island, and preventing recovery of island 
foxes in the wild on Santa Cruz Island.
    Non-native deer and elk on Santa Rosa Island provide a food source 
that helps golden eagles establish territories and attempt breeding on 
the island. Fawn remains have been found in a golden eagle nest on 
Santa Rosa Island (Coonan 2003b), and golden eagles likely feed upon 
carrion and gut piles from the commercial hunt of elk and mule deer 
occurring between August and December each year. In addition to the 
commercial hunt, between 200 and 500 deer are culled annually. The 
availability of carrion in winter determines whether golden eagles 
attempt to breed (general data for GEs) (Lockie 1964). Watson et al. 
(1992) found golden eagle densities to be highest in areas where there 
were abundant dead sheep and/or deer. In one location, golden eagle 
density declined when deer management was altered in a manner that 
resulted in reduced carrion availability (Watson et al. 1989). Until 
unnatural prey sources on the islands are eliminated, removal of golden 
eagles may be temporary, and the continued presence of golden eagles 
would likely prevent recovery of island foxes. Under the provisions of 
a settlement agreement between the NPS and the commercial hunt 
operators, deer and elk will be removed from Santa Rosa Island 
permanently by 2011, with decreases in both populations slated to begin 
in 2008.
    Golden eagles have not been recorded breeding on San Miguel Island. 
No tall trees that could support a golden eagle nest exist on this 
island. However, because empirical evidence linked golden eagle 
predation to 5 of 7 island fox carcasses discovered in 1998 and 1999 
(Roemer et al. 2001b; Coonan et al. in review), golden eagles breeding 
on the other two islands must have ``commuted'' to San Miguel Island to 
feed. The island fox would have been the largest prey item available 
for these commuting golden eagles, as no larger non-native herbivores 
were present during the period of decline. Golden eagles have never 
been recorded breeding on Santa Catalina Island and are not known to be 
a threat to that subspecies.
    To protect island foxes on the northern Channel Islands from 
further declines, the NPS, the Service, and TNC funded a golden eagle 
removal program, which began on Santa Cruz Island in August of 1999 and 
was expanded to include Santa Rosa Island in 2003. Between the fall of 
1999 and October 2003, 31 golden eagles were captured and removed from 
Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands, with the majority (29) being 
captured on Santa Cruz (Latta 2003). Eight golden eagles are thought to 
remain on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands.
    Due to trap wariness, the abundance of feral pig and other prey, 
and the harsh topography of Santa Cruz Island, the remaining golden 
eagles have proven difficult to trap (B. Latta, pers. comm. 2001). 
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 islands. Two captive-
born island fox juveniles released to the wild in December 2002 were 
killed by golden eagles soon after they left rearing pens. Captive-
raised foxes may be more vulnerable to predation than wild-raised 
foxes, and could continue to incur considerable predation with just a 
few eagles on the islands.
    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, juvenile bald eagles were released on 
Santa Cruz Island in 2002 and 2003. Currently, 15 bald eagles inhabit 
Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands (D. Garcelon, in litt. 2003). 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. 2001). Conversely, 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 reintroduction efforts are successful, 
bald eagles will not nest on the islands until 2006. Because Santa Cruz 
Island is large enough for many eagle breeding territories, a large 
resident bald eagle population would be necessary to be successful in 
discouraging future colonization by golden eagles from the mainland.
    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 typical of a 
disease outbreak rather than the slower decline pattern seen on the 
northern Channel Islands from predation (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

[[Page 10345]]

on Santa Catalina Island is of a similar magnitude (90 percent) as that 
on the northern Channel Islands, but 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 islandwide, 
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 had high antibody titers to canine distemper virus, 
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. 2001b).
    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. Previous studies had found no 
evidence of canine distemper in Santa Catalina Island foxes (Garcelon 
et al. 1992), although a recent assay of wild island fox blood samples 
discovered evidence of previous exposure to canine distemper virus on 
all islands with wild foxes (Coonan 2003). Although the ramifications 
of this discovery are not entirely understood, it is now believed that 
the virus may occasionally affect wild island fox populations, but that 
some individuals survive (as evident by the existence of survivors with 
evidence of exposure). Because wild foxes with antibodies against 
canine distemper virus have immunity, and thus protection against the 
next outbreak, a greater degree of protection could be conferred to 
wild populations by vaccinating wild foxes against canine distemper 
virus. 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. One 
hundred thirty-eight island foxes in captivity and in the wild on Santa 
Catalina Island have been administered vaccinations and booster shots 
during 2001 and 2002. Currently, 95 percent of island foxes on the west 
end and 45 percent of foxes on the east end of Santa Catalina Island 
have been vaccinated against canine distemper virus (Kohlmann et al. 
2003). The Island Fox Conservation Working Group recommends expanding 
the canine distemper vaccination program to other islands (Coonan 
    A recent serosurvey of island foxes showed that wild foxes on Santa 
Catalina, San Nicolas, San Clemente, and Santa Cruz Islands had 
evidence of exposure to canine distemper virus (Fritcher et al. in 
prep.). This result was surprising given the results of an earlier 
study that did not find evidence of canine distemper virus exposure 
(Garcelon et al. 1992). San Nicolas and Santa Cruz Islands had the 
highest canine distemper virus antibody prevalence. Given the high 
numbers of island foxes on San Nicolas Island, the canine distemper 
virus appears to not have the same effect as on Santa Catalina Island, 
perhaps indicating that the different islands were exposed to viruses 
of differing morbidity (Fritcher et al. in prep.).
    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. 2001b). 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; Fritcher et al. in prep.). Canine 
herpesvirus, coronavirus, leptospirosis, and toxoplasmosis have been 
recorded at low levels (Garcelon et al. 1992; Coonan et al. 2000; 
Roemer et al. 2001b). 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). More recent information shows an increase in the prevalence of 
parvovirus on Santa Catalina Island in 2001 and 2002, a period of time 
when that population was beginning to recover from canine distemper 
(Fritcher et al. in prep.). 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. 1992). Canine adenovirus may be typically 
present in the island fox populations (Garcelon et al. 1992), with 
little effect on individual health. However, because both Santa 
Catalina and Santa Cruz islands have never been exposed to canine 
adenovirus (Garcelon et al. 1992; Fritcher et al. in prep.), these 
subspecies are na[iuml]ve to the virus and would be more susceptible to 
exposure to adenovirus.
    Antibodies to canine heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) have 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 (i.e., occurrence) of heartworm in these 
populations (between 58 and 100 percent in 1997), 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. 2001b); (2) heartworm 
antibodies were 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 adult worms in the hearts of island foxes and no 
evidence of heartworm disease (Roemer 1999). However, heartworm may 

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contributed to mortality in older foxes (Roemer et al. 2001b), 
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 biphenyls (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.
    In summary, we have concluded that disease and predation under 
Factor C result in substantial extinction risk for four subspecies of 
island fox. Specifically, predation of island foxes by golden eagles 
was directly responsible for the decline of island foxes on Santa Cruz, 
Santa Rosa, and San Miguel Islands, while an outbreak of canine 
distemper virus was directly responsible for the decline of the Santa 
Catalina Island fox.
    D. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. The primary 
causes of the decline of the island fox are unprecedented predation by 
golden eagles and the rapid transmission of canine distemper through 
the Santa Catalina Island subspecies. Federal, State, and local laws 
have not been sufficient to prevent past and ongoing losses of island 
    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 
(California Code of Regulation, 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. 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 (San Miguel, Santa Cruz, 
and Santa Rosa islands) and Navy (San Miguel Island) 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 animal 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 recovery strategy 
for island foxes on the northern Channel Islands to guide their 
recovery options. This strategy contains many elements of the recovery 
plans outlined in section 4 of the Act.
    The NPS has implemented portions of their recovery strategy to 
prevent the extinction of the island foxes in the near term. Despite 
the best efforts of the NPS, the populations have significantly 
declined in recent years such that on San Miguel, no foxes remain in 
the wild, on Santa Rosa, there are likely no foxes in the wild, on 
Santa Cruz, approximately 68 foxes remain in the wild, and on Santa 
Catalina, approximately 215 foxes remain in the wild.
    Because the number of foxes on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa 
Cruz islands declined to extremely low numbers as a result of predation 
by golden eagles, the NPS and The Nature Conservancy captured the 
remaining individuals and initiated a captive breeding program. Captive 
breeding efforts prevented the almost assured extinction of the San 
Miguel and Santa Rosa island foxes, but the existence of animals bred 
in captivity alone is not sufficient to ensure recovery; there must be 
successful reintroduction of the island foxes to the wild. Although 
captive breeding has been conducted for approximately three years, and 
the number of island foxes in captivity has increased, this has not 
resulted in a substantial reduction in the extinction risk for the fox, 
as island fox releases have either not occurred (San Miguel Island), 
have been unsuccessful (Santa Cruz Island) or the results are not yet 
determinable (Santa Rosa Island). While we have been working with NPS 
to remove the threats to island foxes from golden eagle predation and 
disease, the success of these efforts and captive breeding and feral 
pig removal remains uncertain. Steps are underway to understand the 
prevalence of disease and the potential use of vaccination. However, 
even with the ongoing conservation efforts, the low population numbers 
and uncertainty of the effectiveness of these efforts leave the island 
fox in danger of extinction.
    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). The Navy currently 
does not actively use San Miguel Island. In addition to San Miguel, 
Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands also 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. The Navy contributed $100,000 to island fox conservation 
efforts on San Miguel Island in 2000 and 2001.
    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

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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 (Brian Walton, SCPBRG, 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(b)(1)). 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 infeasible.
    The golden eagle is considered a fully protected species by the 
State of California (California Fish and Game Code, section 3511). 
Fully protected species may not be taken or possessed at any time, and 
no licenses or permits may be issued for their take except for 
collecting these species for necessary scientific research and 
relocation of the bird species for the protection of livestock. 
However, on October 9, 2003, this law was amended by SB412, which 
allows the California Department of Fish and Game to authorize the take 
of fully protected species for scientific research, including research 
on recovery for other imperiled species. Therefore, the State law no 
longer prohibits take of golden eagles for the purpose of recovering 
the island fox if the appropriate authorization is granted.
    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).
    In summary, the existing regulatory mechanisms have not prevented 
the steep declines of the four island fox subspecies and will not 
ensure their recovery. One Federal law (the Bald and Golden Eagle 
Protection Act) and two State laws (California Fish and Game Code, 
section 3511, and Food and Agricultural Code 31752.5) have delayed or 
precluded the implementation of needed recovery actions for island 
foxes. Despite current efforts, the island foxes meet the definition of 
    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). 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'' (severe crashes in population resulting 
in abnormally low numbers) 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 (Gray et al. 2001). The effect of 
population bottlenecks on island fox genetic variation is demonstrated 
by an example from San Nicolas Island. The San Nicolas Island fox has 
an unusually low degree of genetic variability (Gilbert et al. 1990; 
Wayne et al. 1991; 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, low genetic 
variability threatens the island foxes from these islands. The threat 
also exists on Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina islands, although the 
bottleneck was less severe on 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 captive 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

[[Page 10348]]

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 likely cause a 
number of island fox deaths on Santa Catalina Island each year. Vehicle 
collisions on the northern Channel Islands are uncommon due to low 
traffic volume and the rough unpaved nature of most roads.
    In summary, other threats analyzed under Factor E either directly 
contribute or may contribute to the decline of island foxes. However, 
the threat of roadkill alone is unlikely to have been a cause of 
decline, and the reduced genetic variability and the increased 
probability of extinction due to stochastic factors are risks that have 
emerged as a result of the decline rather than a cause.
    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 the four island fox subspecies addressed in 
this rule are primarily due to predation from golden eagles (on San 
Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz islands) or canine distemper virus 
(on Santa Catalina Island), as well as 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, all of which could diminish 
or destroy the small extant populations. Existing regulatory mechanisms 
are inadequate to protect these taxa. See Tables 1-4 for summaries of 
the status, major threats, conservation actions, and effectiveness for 
each of the four subspecies. Based on our evaluation, the San Miguel 
Island fox, Santa Cruz Island fox, Santa Rosa Island fox, and Santa 
Catalina Island fox fit the definition of endangered as defined in the 

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 by the Secretary 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.

  Table 1.--Summary of Status, Major Threat, Conservation Actions, and
            Their Effectiveness for the San Miguel Island Fox
                          SAN MIGUEL ISLAND FOX
 [0 = Number of foxes in wild; 38 = Number of foxes in captivity; 450 =
                        Number of foxes in 1994]
Major threat causing decline   Conservation action  Assess effectiveness
Predation by golden eagles..  Capture island foxes  Successful in
                               for sanctuary from    preventing the near-
                               predation.            term extinction of
                                                     the San Miguel
                                                     Island fox.
                              Implement captive     Captive breeding has
                               breeding for          been successful in
                               augmentation of       maintaining and
                               population.           increasing the
                                                     captive population.
                                                     However, there are
                                                     inherent problems
                                                     with captive
                                                     breeding (e.g.,
                                                     disease, captive
                                                     stress syndrome
                                                     resulting in
                                                     mortality, low
                                                     productivity, etc.)
                              Reintroduce foxes     This effort has not
                               from captive          been implemented on
                               breeding into the     San Miguel Island
                               wild.                 due to continued
                                                     threat of predation
                                                     by golden eagles.
                                                     The reintroduction
                                                     program will be
                                                     experimental, and
                                                     there are inherent
                                                     uncertainties that
                                                     may affect its
                                                     success (e.g.,
                                                     inexperience of
                              Decrease the threat    Unsuccessful to
                               of predation from     date, although see
                               golden eagles by:     (b) below.
                              (a) Removing golden   (a) Eight golden
                               eagles from the       eagles remain on
                               northern channel      Santa Cruz and
                               islands;.             Santa Rosa islands.
                              and.................   This is larger than
                              (b) Removal of feral   the number expected
                               pigs from Santa       to cause extinction
                               Cruz Island so that   of island foxes in
                               golden eagles are     7-10 years. Eagles
                               not sustained or      from those islands
                               attracted to the      are transient
                               northern Channel      visitors to San
                               Islands..             Miguel Island.
                                                     Golden eagles
                                                     continue to be the
                                                     important threat.
                                                    (b) This action is
                                                     proposed to begin
                                                     being implemented
                                                     in summer/fall
                                                     2004, and will take
                                                     4-6 years to
Summary: The island fox population on San Miguel Island has decreased by
  over 80% since 1994. Currently, removing golden eagles from the
  northern Channel Islands is the single-most important recovery action,
  and these efforts have not been successful to date. Reintroduction of
  foxes on San Miguel Island has not been implemented due to the threat
  of predation by golden eagles. Captive breeding and reintroduction
  programs are expensive, and long-term funding is not assured.

[[Page 10349]]

  Table 2.--Summary of Status, Major Threat, Conservation Actions, and
            Their Effectiveness for the Santa Rosa Island Fox
                          SANTA ROSA ISLAND FOX
 [6-7 = Number of reintroduced foxes; 56 = Number of foxes in captivity;
               1,000 = Number of foxes in 1994]
Major threat causing decline   Conservation action  Assess effectiveness
Predation by golden eagles..  Capture island foxes  Successful in
                               for sanctuary from    preventing the
                               predation.            extinction of the
                                                     Santa Rosa Island
                                                     fox in the near
                              Implement captive     Captive breeding has
                               breeding for          been successful in
                               augmentation of       maintaining and
                               population.           increasing the
                                                     captive population.
                                                     However, there are
                                                     inherent problems
                                                     with captive
                                                     breeding (e.g.,
                                                     disease, captive
                                                     stress syndrome
                                                     resulting in
                                                     mortality, low
                              Reintroduce foxes     This program is
                               from captive          experimental. Eight
                               breeding into the     foxes released in
                               wild.                 2003, 1 and
                                                     possibly 2 of which
                                                     were killed by
                                                     golden eagles. If
                                                     one more fox is
                                                     killed by an eagle,
                                                     the remainder will
                                                     be recaptured and
                                                     returned to
                                                     captivity to avoid
                                                     further losses.
                                                     Furthermore, there
                                                     are inherent
                                                     uncertainties that
                                                     may affect the
                                                     success of
                                                     programs (e.g.,
                                                     inexperience of
                              Decrease the threat   Unsuccessful to
                               of predation from     date, although see
                               golden eagles by:     (b) below.
                              (a) Removing golden   (a) Eight golden
                               eagles from the       eagles remain on
                               northern channel      Santa Cruz and
                               islands;.             Santa Rosa islands.
                              (b) Removing feral     This is larger than
                               pigs so that golden   the number expected
                               eagles are not        to cause extinction
                               sustained or          of island foxes in
                               attracted to          7-10 years. Golden
                               northern Channel      eagles continue to
                               Islands;.             be the single most
                              and.................   important threat.
                              (c) Managing deer     (b) This action is
                               and elk hunts on      proposed to begin
                               Santa Rosa Island     being implemented
                               to reduce             in summer/fall
                               availability of       2004, and will take
                               carcasses as food     4-6 years to
                               source for golden     complete.
                               eagles..             (c) Park Service and
                                                     permittee working
                                                     cooperatively for
                                                     changes in
                                                     operations. By
                                                     current agreement,
                                                     reduction in deer
                                                     and elk numbers
                                                     will occur by 2008
                                                     and animals
                                                     eliminated by 2011.

Summary: The island fox population on Santa Rosa Island has decreased by
  approximately 95% since 1994. Currently, removing golden eagles from
  the northern Channel Islands is the single-most important recovery
  action, and these efforts have not been successful to date. Predation
  by golden eagles continues to be the leading cause of mortality of
  island foxes in the wild on Santa Rosa Island. Captive breeding and
  reintroduction programs are expensive, and long-term funding is not

  Table 3.--Summary of Status, Major Threats, Conservation Actions, and
            Their Effectiveness for the Santa Cruz Island Fox
                          SANTA CRUZ ISLAND FOX
 [70 = Number of foxes in wild; 40 = Number of foxes in captivity; 1,300
                     = Number of foxes pre-decline]
Major threat causing decline   Conservation action  Assess effectiveness
Predation by golden eagles..  Capture island foxes  Successful in
                               for sanctuary from    preventing the
                               predation.            extinction of the
                                                     Santa Cruz Island
                              Implement captive     Captive breeding has
                               breeding for          been successful in
                               augmentation of       maintaining and
                               population.           increasing the
                                                     captive population.
                                                     However, there are
                                                     inherent problems
                                                     with captive
                                                     breeding (e.g.,
                                                     disease, captive
                                                     stress syndrome
                                                     resulting in
                                                     mortality, low
                              Reintroduce foxes     This effort is
                               from captive          experimental and
                               breeding into the     unsuccessful to
                               wild.                 date. Five of nine
                                                     foxes released in
                                                     winter 2003 were
                                                     killed by golden
                                                     eagles. The
                                                     remainder were
                                                     recaptured and
                                                     returned to
                                                     captivity to avoid
                                                     further losses.
                                                     Furthermore, there
                                                     are inherent
                                                     uncertainties that
                                                     may affect the
                                                     success of
                                                     programs (e.g.,
                                                     inexperience of

[[Page 10350]]

                              Decrease the threat   Unsuccessful to
                               of predation from     date, although see
                               golden eagles by:     (b) below.
                              (a) Removing golden   (a) Eight golden
                               eagles from the       eagles remain on
                               northern channel      Santa Cruz and
                               islands;.             Santa Rosa islands.
                              and.................   This is larger than
                              (b) Removing feral     the number expected
                               pigs from Santa       to cause extinction
                               Cruz Island so that   of island foxes in
                               golden eagles are     7-10 years. Golden
                               not sustained or      eagles continue to
                               attracted to          be the singlemost
                               northern Channel      important threat.
                               Islands..            (b) This action is
                                                     proposed to begin
                                                     being implemented
                                                     in summer/fall
                                                     2004, and will take
                                                     4-6 years to
Summary: The island fox population on Santa Cruz Island has decreased by
  approximately 90% since 1994. Currently, removing golden eagles from
  the northern Channel Islands is the single-most important recovery
  action, and these efforts have not been successful to date. Predation
  by golden eagles continues to be the leading cause of mortality of
  island foxes in the wild on Santa Cruz Island. Captive breeding and
  reintroduction programs are expensive. Seventy-five percent of Santa
  Cruz Island is owned by the Nature Conservancy. Long-term funding is
  not assured.

  Table 4.--Summary of Status, Major Threats, Conservation Actions, and
          Their Effectiveness for the Santa Catalina Island Fox
                        SANTA CATALINA ISLAND FOX
   [200 = Number of foxes remaining in wild; 40? = Number of foxes in
               captivity; 1,200 = Number of foxes in 1998]
Major threat causing decline   Conservation action  Assess effectiveness
Disease.....................  Remove/reduce causes  These measures have
                               of future disease     not been
                               transmission by:      implemented, and we
                              (a) Requiring          don't know how
                               vaccinations for      successful they
                               animals coming to     will be (i.e., if
                               the island,.          additional measures
                              (b) Removing feral     are needed).
                               cats, which act as
                               vectors for
                              Vaccinate wild foxes  Effective for strain
                               for canine            of CDV that caused
                               distemper virus       decline. Not
                               (CDV).                effective against
                                                     other strains.
                              Use captive breeding  Captive breeding was
                               to augment            successful in the
                               populations.          short term
                                                     following the
                                                     decline. Because
                                                     reproductive rates
                                                     and survival are
                                                     currently similar
                                                     to those in wild,
                                                     captive breeding is
                                                     being phased out.
Summary: The island fox population on Santa Catalina Island has
  decreased by 80%. Two of the symptoms of the threat (i.e., low
  population numbers, immunity to canine distemper) have been
  successfully addressed by captive breeding and vaccination of wild
  foxes from the canine distemper virus. However, the threat of disease
  itself has not been addressed, and thus the population continues to be
  susceptible to catastrophic disease outbreaks. This risk is especially
  heightened now due to the low numbers of Santa Catalina Island foxes
  relative to historical population sizes. The following three actions
  need to be implemented in the future to recover the Santa Catalina
  Island fox: (1) Work with residents of Catalina Island to have pets
  receive appropriate vaccinations; (2) work with boat concessionaires
  to require proof of vaccination for any pets coming to the island in
  the future; and (3) develop educational materials to inform island
  residents and visitors of the threats to island foxes from disease and
  measures they can implement to assist in protecting foxes.

    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 Santa Catalina island foxes.
    Because the designation of critical habitat is prudent for the San 
Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa Catalina Island foxes, we 
will under the terms of the settlement in CBD v. Williams et al, submit 
a proposed designation for publication on or by October 1, 2004, 
followed by a final determination submitted for publication on or by 
November 1, 2005. Section 4(b)(6)(C)(I) of the ESA states that final 
listing determinations may be issued without critical habitat 

[[Page 10351]]

when it is essential that such determinations be promptly published.

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. Recovery planning and 
implementation, the protection required of Federal agencies and the 
prohibitions against certain activities involving listed animals are 
discussed, in part, below.
    The primary purpose of the Act is the conservation of endangered 
and threatened species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The 
ultimate goal of such conservation efforts is the recovery of these 
listed species, so that they no longer need the protective measures of 
the Act. Subsection 4(f) of the Act requires the Service to develop and 
implement plans for the conservation of endangered and threatened 
species (``recovery plans''). The recovery process involves halting or 
reversing the species' decline by addressing the threats to its 
survival. The goal of this process is to restore listed species to a 
point where they are secure, self-sustaining and functioning components 
of their ecosystems, thus allowing delisting.
    Recovery planning, the foundation for species recovery, includes 
the development of a recovery outline as soon as a species is listed, 
and later, preparation of draft and final recovery plans, and revision 
of the plan as significant new information becomes available. The 
recovery outline--the first step in recovery planning--guides the 
immediate implementation of urgent recovery actions, and describes the 
process to be used to develop a recovery plan. The recovery plan 
identifies site specific management actions that will achieve recovery 
of the species, measurable criteria that determine when a species may 
be downlisted or delisted, and methods for monitoring recovery 
progress. Recovery teams, consisting of species experts, federal and 
state agencies, non-government organizations, and stakeholders, are 
often established to develop recovery plans. When completed, a copy of 
the recovery outline, draft recovery plan, or final recovery plan will 
be available from our office (see ADDRESSES) or from our website 

    Implementation of recovery actions generally requires the 
participation of a broad range of partners, including other Federal 
agencies, States, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and 
private landowners. Examples of recovery actions include habitat 
restoration (restoration of vegetation, hydrology, etc.), research, 
captive propagation and reintroduction, and outreach and education. The 
recovery of many listed species cannot be accomplished solely on our 
National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, National Parks, and other 
Federal lands. Because many species occur primarily or solely on 
private lands, achieving recovery of these species requires cooperative 
conservation efforts on private lands. The island fox occurs primarily 
on federal land.
    The funding for recovery actions can come from a variety of 
sources, including Federal budgets, State programs, and cost share 
grants for non-federal landowners, the academic community, and non-
governmental organizations. Information on the Service's grant programs 
that can aid in species recovery can be found at: http://endangered.fws.gov/grants/index.html

    The NPS in conjunction with FWS has developed a recovery strategy 
for island foxes on the northern Channel Islands (Coonan 2003a) that 
provides the basis for recovery actions on San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and 
Santa Cruz islands. Essential recovery actions on these islands will 
likely include: Complete removal of golden eagles, maintenance of 
captive breeding facilities, keeping a studbook to inform captive 
breeding pairings, releases of island foxes into the wild, monitoring 
wild populations, developing and implementing vaccination protocols, 
and conducting public outreach and education.
    On Santa Catalina Island, essential recovery actions will likely 
include implementing measures to reduce the transmission of canine 
diseases to the island, vaccinating wild foxes for protection against 
canine distemper, monitoring wild populations, exploring the role that 
non-native deer and bison have on island fox habitats, and controlling 
feral cats to reduce competition and disease transmission risk.
    We will be working with the NPS, CDFG, TNC, the Navy, the Catalina 
Island Conservancy, academic researchers, private individuals, and 
environmental groups to implement these recovery actions for the island 
    Please let us know if you are interested in participating in 
recovery efforts for the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa 
Catalina island foxes (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). 
Additionally, we invite you to submit any further information on the 
species whenever it becomes available and any information you may have 
for recovery planning purposes (see ADDRESSES).
    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 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 TNC, the 
entire island lies within the Channel Islands National Park and Channel 
Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and TNC 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 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 
    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

[[Page 10352]]

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. The prohibitions in 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, OR 97232-4181 (503/231-2063, 
facsimile 503/231-6243).
    It is our policy, as published in the Federal Register on July 1, 
1994 (59 FR 34272), 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 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) Activities that actually kill or injure a San Miguel, Santa 
Rosa, Santa Cruz, or Santa Catalina island fox by significantly 
impairing essential behavioral patterns (such as breeding, feeding or 
sheltering) through significant habitat modification or degradation 
(e.g., via excavating, compacting, grading, discing, or removing soil 
or vegetation) in such a way as to facilitate the introduction or 
spread of non-native species of plants or that would result in the 
removal of a den;
    (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 the den no longer being able 
to be used for breeding purposes; 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 of the Act should be directed to our Ventura 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section). Requests for copies 
of the regulations regarding listed species and inquiries regarding 
prohibitions and permits may be addressed to the U.S. Fsh and Wildlife 
Service, Endangered Species Permits, 911 NE 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 
97232-4181 (503/231-2063; facsimile 503/231-6243).

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 

References Cited

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

[[Page 10353]]


    The primary authors of this notice are Bridget Fahey, Ventura Fish 
and Wildlife Office, and Sandy Vissman, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife 
Office (see ADDRESSES section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Regulation Promulgation

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


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                       742           NA           NA
Fox, Santa Catalina Island.......  Urocyon littoralis    U.S.A. (CA)........  U.S.A. (CA)........  E                       742           NA           NA
Fox, Santa Cruz Island...........  Urocyon littoralis    U.S.A. (CA)........  U.S.A. (CA)........  E                       742           NA           NA
Fox, Santa Rosa Island...........  Urocyon littoralis    U.S.A. (CA)........  U.S.A. (CA)........  E                       742           NA           NA

                                                                      * * * * * * *

    Dated: March 1, 2004.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 04-4902 Filed 3-4-04; 8:45 am]