The Wild with Chris Morgan

The rise and fall…and rise...of the island fox

July 6, 2021

For an ecologist like me, Santa Cruz island is a bit of a dream. It is home to a quite famous fox. It is like no “apex predator” I’ve ever seen before. These aren’t the type of foxes you might see on the mainland. These island foxes are small, very small. 

These foxes are endemic to the Channel Islands, meaning they are found here and nowhere else in the world. But about 20 years ago, people on these islands started noticing fewer and fewer foxes on the landscape. Their numbers were crashing dramatically….on Santa Cruz island they dropped to around one hundred animals. But nobody was sure why.

It was an ecological whodunnit that needed to be solved before the foxes disappeared forever. The clock was ticking. What scientists discovered was a cascade of curiously connected events involving toxic waste, feral pigs, and a couple of New Zealanders jumping out of a helicopter.

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