11 Jul 2010, Posted by Amelia Guimarin in 6th Blog, 0 Comments
During the last week of June, I had a chance to visit the Channel Islands. My family went camping on Santa Cruz Island, part of Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Southern California. We spent five days out there, hiking and kayaking and generally enjoying the awesome beauty of the islands. We were very privileged, as our most who visit the ‘human-inhabited parts of the island (no one lives out there permanently, but there are ranger stations and campgrounds), to have several encounters with the Island Fox, a critically endangered species endemic to the islands. Of the eight Channel Islands, the foxes are found on six and each is its own subspecies particular to that island. To the common eye, the differences between the foxes are insignificant, but compared to mainland foxes, the Island Foxes are much smaller, about the size of a house cat. They mark their territory with urine and feces, and fight and vocalize to maintain that territory, as we heard nearly every night just outside our tent (and saw on our picnic table when we woke up in the morning).
Having no natural predators, the foxes are not timid and I captured the above shot from no more than six feet away. While the foxes are at the top of the food chain now, it wasn’t always so. They became endangered from the encroachment of Golden Eagles onto the islands after Bald Eagles had vanished due to the effects of DDT making it impossible for them to bring their eggs to hatching. Bald Eagles prey on fish while Golden Eagles hunt on land. The foxes were a prime target and on Santa Cruz Island their population fell from 2,000 in 1994 to less than 135 in 2000. Conservation efforts have brought the foxes back to sustainable levels. Golden Eagles were trapped and released back into the wild on the mainland, Bald Eagles were reintroduced onto the islands, and the foxes were captured and breed before being released back into the wild. Now, anyone visiting the more ‘high-traffic’ area of the islands is almost sure to catch a glimpse of a fox if not much more than that.
These little guys are so cute and we were especially lucky to be out at Santa Cruz during pupping season – we saw on two occasions a mama and her three babies. If that isn’t a good enough reason to fight extinction, I don’t know what is. While the Channel Islands are a protected environment and the parks service and other organizations do a great job of keeping them intact by limiting visitors and usage, I recommend everyone take a trip out there, especially those of us who live so close by. It’s just a few hours from the heart of Los Angeles and feels worlds away. A few other highlights from our trip are included below: [click thumbnails for larger image]
And, I almost forgot to mention all the other animals we saw: Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, Garibaldi (California’s state fish!), Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, and more! Including, Common Dolphins…
On the boat trip out to the island, we came upon an enormous pod of Common Dolphins, some 3,000 animals! They jumped all along side and behind our boat and could be seen all along the horizon. It was truly awesome and I caught a few quick shots of them with my camera. Here’s the video – it’s short, but sweet:
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