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Wildlife Wednesday: Island Fox


Wildlife Wednesday: Island Fox

Learn about the island fox - a once-endangered canid whose vocalizations aren’t so mysterious after all.

This week, we’re going to find out more about the island fox, and answer a question that was frequently asked in 2013: what does the fox say?


Island foxes are found on six of the eight Channel Islands near the southern California coast.

Island fox trivia

  • Contrary to the catchy song, foxes communicate by barking and growling.
  • The island fox has the distinction of being the only carnivore to live solely in California.
  • Being about the size of a house cat, the island fox is one-third the size of the gray fox from which it descended.
  • With no natural predators, island foxes can hunt at any time of day, but they are most active at dusk and dawn.
  • There are six subspecies of island fox, each named for the island on which it resides.
  • As if these foxes aren’t cute enough, they also tend to mate for life (aw!).

Why they’re threatened

Although always a low-population species, the island fox flirted with extinction in the late 1990s. The presence of DDT—a notorious pesticide that also troubled brown pelicans—had wreaked havoc on the islands’ bald eagle population. In their absence, golden eagles moved in and began to prey on island foxes. By 2004, the island fox was critically endangered.

The good news? The Channel Islands National Park has since endeavoured to help its favourite fox species recover; for example, it removed golden eagles from the islands and re-established bald eagles. The result of these efforts is a happily recovered population of island foxes, though the species is still listed as “Near Threatened."



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