Catalina fox population stabilizes, still endangered

AVALON, Calif.

The fox population on the island became threatened 13 years ago after an outbreak of canine distemper virus (CDV) killed large numbers of the foxes. It's believed the CDV was possibly introduced onto the island by a stowaway raccoon.

The Catalina Island Conservancy completed an island-wide trapping survey for 2012 and determined there were approximately 1,500 individual foxes on the island. That's down from the 2011 estimate of 1,542, a slight decrease but within the same range, according to Catalina Island Conservancy Director of Conservation and Wildlife Management Julie King.

The Catalina Island fox is still on the "threatened species" California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife list, and is listed as "endangered" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Conservancy spokesperson said "human activities contributed to more than half of the 24 fox mortalities documented in 2012. Although vehicle trauma remains the highest cause of documented fox mortality, several foxes were killed by off-leash dogs, drowning in water containers, or becoming trapped in trash containers without adequate lids."

Conservancy biologists will continue a vaccination program to protect at least 300 foxes from CDV and rabies. Weekly aerial monitoring of foxes' radio collars will continue.

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