After a dramatic comeback from near extinction, tiny, pointy-eared foxes that live on an island off the Southern California coast are thriving again, but the species is encountering new problems.
Catalina Island foxes are making their way out of the wild interior and into the city of Avalon, where they are more and more found hit by cars, trapped inside trash bins, or stuck in uncovered water containers.
The Daily Breeze newspaper told of a story published Sunday. Attacks by pet dogs and rat poison also have proven to be problems for the five-pound foxes, the island’s conservation and wildlife management director Julie King said.
In 1999 Canine distemper virus decimated this canine population, leaving only about 100 of the animals. A recovery program that included captive breeding and vaccination was developed by King and other biologists. As of last year, an estimated 1,700 foxes were on the island.
An outreach effort was instigated by King to educate the island’s human residents and visitors on how to coexist with the animals without killing. The Catalina Island Conservancy is raising money to buy 150 animal-proof trash bin and recycling containers that cost $2,000 each.
King said, “The consequence of having a recovered population is that they’re moving into areas around Avalon where people haven’t seen foxes in their backyards for 15 years. They’ve become less diligent with trash practices.”
Like how mainland residents deal with coyotes, possums and raccoon, King counseled residents to keep their trash covered and not leave any food out.
Researchers said, in 2014 alone, at least 25 foxes died as a result of vehicle trauma, poisonings and other human-related dealings. That’s more than the two previous years combined, in which a total of 20 Catalina Island foxes were killed by vehicles.
What a pity. There should be controls in place to stop this slaughter if we want t total recovery of the foxes population.