Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sly as a Fox

Channel Islands National Park
As the e-tour continues to head west, we leave the "sky islands" of Southern Arizona for the Channel Islands off the coast of California. This epic series of islands, designated a National Park in 1980, hosts a variety of endemic and fascinating species. As volcanic islands isolated from the mainland, these ecosystems have evolved in such a fashion where unique plants and animals can thrive without heavy competition. One example is the island fox, a distinct fox species that only grows to 12 to 15 inches in height. Although no larger than a house cat, the island fox is the largest mammal in the island chain. Without any predators on the island, this fox has ended up quite curious.

The endemic island fox
The fox box!
Because the island fox is such a curious fellow, these animals have learned to find the campgrounds and picnic areas on the islands. Learning from experience by finding food left unattended by visitors, many of the foxes have become habituated and often directly approach humans on the islands seeking food. Some really clever foxes have even learned to nudge open tent zippers in search of food! The National Park is making a strong effort to help island foxes and visitors alike. The picnic areas and campgrounds on the islands do not have any trash cans, meaning that backcountry users and frontcountry day-visitors alike must pack out what they pack in. All the picnic tables and campsites are also equipped with food lockers to store any and all temptations through the foxes. By practicing Leave No Trace techniques regarding food repackaging, storage, and disposal, visitors to these islands can help protect one of the incredible animal species that make them such a special place!

Like a Fox on the Run,

Quinn & Frank

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