Local conservationists have something to be awfully proud of this week. The California Island fox—nearly extinct 12 years ago when it was added to the federal Endangered Species List—has now bounced back, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
As NPR reports, the foxes made what officials think is the fastest recovery of any mammal that has ever been named to the list. Now the Channel Islands that the little guys call home is populated with almost 6,000 of the house cat-sized creatures.
“Now, you go out there and you don’t have to wait very long before a fox crosses your path,” Scott Morrison of the Nature Conservancy told the LA Times of the population’s rebound on Santa Cruz Island.
If you want to test his theory and see a fox in the wild for yourself, you can head out to the island, which is co-managed by the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy. Boat services take hikers and campers out from Ventura Harbor. Once you arrive, you’ll find essentially unspoiled nature, with no hotels, shops, restaurants or other commercial development. Take some time to wander until you spot a fox pup or any of the other native wildlife species that fill the island's 96 square miles.
Among those species you’re likely to spot will be bald eagles, which have also been reintroduced as part of the rehabilitation project.
Scientists aren’t totally sure how the foxes first came to be on the islands, but they do know that in the 1800s, ranchers decided to use the islands to raise pigs, cattle and sheep—and eventually that drew golden (not bald) eagles who preyed on the small pigs. Those eagles then developed a taste for the foxes, too. To bring back the foxes, wildlife officials had to remove the pigs and the golden eagles. With the goldens out of picture, it became safe for bald eagles to return. Win win!
We're feeling pretty good about it all, as the success of the efforts to conserve the California Island Foxes can only bode well for preservation efforts of other California wildlife.