Two Protected Species in Conflict in California
The Channel Islands off the coast of southern California are home to a species of fox, the island fox, that is found nowhere else. Golden eagles, which are federally protected, moved out to the Channel Islands in the 1990s and proceeded to drive the island fox almost to extinction. Were it not for fast action by conservation agencies the island fox would have gone extinct before it is protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Actions taken to protect the island fox so far include a captive breeding program, and live capture and removal of most of the golden eagles on the islands. The Park Service wants to bring bald eagles back to the islands to do what they cannot, which is kill or drive off the remaining golden eagles on the islands.
The Park Service tried to reintroduce some captive bred island foxes into the wild on Santa Cruz but most were quickly killed by golden eagles and the survivors were brought back into capitivity.
Gary Roemer has been studying the island foxes since the late 1980s. In the early 1990s he watched as golden eagles came to the islands and nearly wiped out the island foxes. Gary is a professor of fisheries and wildlife sciences at New Mexico State University. He spoke with us about his work trying to save this highly threatened species.