The channel island fox was recently taken off the Endangered species list after just 12 years since it was first put on the list. In 2004, the tiny fox’s status changed to endangered when conservationists noticed that the population was reduced by 90 percent.
Federal researchers said that the fox’s recovery is the fastest America has ever seen for a mammal species. Three subspecies of the animal were delisted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service this week.
The island fox is endemic to Californian’s channel islands in the southern parts of the state. It is considered to be one of the smallest canids on the planet with adults reaching the size of an average-sized cat.
The fox’s troubles started in the late 1990s due to the toxic pesticide DDT which killed fish-loving bald eagles in their habitat and prompted the appearance of golden eagles which prey on the small animals.
New predators and a viral infection reduced even more the population. More than a decade ago, there were only 15 specimens left on the Santa Rosa island and 55 on Santa Cruz, prompting researchers to deem the animal “one of America’s rarest mammals.”
But authorities have stepped in, and the animals were bred in captivity, while the animals left in the wild were vaccinated to make them immune to the devastating illness. Authorities also removed golden eagles and feral pigs from the area and reintroduced bald eagles.
Thanks to these measures, fox population soared to:
- 2,100 on Santa Cruz island,
- 1,200 on Santa Rosa,
- and 700 in San Miguel in just 12 years.
Conservationists explained that the surge in population couldn’t have happened without the efforts to restore the islands’ original ecosystem. Additionally, federal and state authorities got precious help from environmental groups such as the Institute for Wildlife Studies and Nature Conservancy.
Officials said that it is the quickest delisting in nearly half century. Nevertheless, the subspecies on Santa Catalina island will not be removed from the list, but will see its status change from endangered to threatened.
With this latest delisting, 19 species were removed from the Endangered Species list under the Obama administration. Federal researchers said that this is evidence that the law is an effective instrument to protect endangered wildlife species.
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