Wednesday, 5 June 2013

'Dwarf' foxes, saved from extinction, make an incredible recovery

May 28, 2013

While they may be a bit smaller than your average house cat, what these 'dwarf' Island foxes lack in stature, they make up for in resilience.

Not long ago, the future looked bleak for the distinctly diminutive fox species that reside on California's Channel Islands. In the mid-1990s, the island fox's numbers had plummeted from the thousands to, in some cases, just over a dozen -- raising alarms that the species would soon be extinct and prompting them to be classified as a 'critically endangered' species.

But now, after a few short years of incredibly well-executed conservation tactics, biologists say that the tiny canine has made one of the fastest recoveries of any animal in the history of the Endangered Species Act.

The history of the island fox's decline offers a lesson on the interconnectivity of nature. Bald eagles were once common along the Channel Islands, feeding mostly on fish while the foxes feasted on insects, birds, and other land mammals. Exposure to the now-banned insecticide DDT, which washed into the ocean and contaminate their diet, caused bald eagles to die off -- opening the skies over the islands for a new bird of prey to take hold.

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