Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The San Miguel Island Fox

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Craniata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Urocyon
Species: Urocyon littoralis littoralis

The San Miguel Island Fox is a beautiful animal that that endangered due to the large population of the Golden eagle on the San Miguel Island. The fox does have three adaptations that assist in it's survival. The most mentioned and important adaptation of the San Miguel Island Fox is the size of the fox. The fox is approximately the same size as a house cat (18-20in.) in length and weighs anywhere from 2.8-6.2 lbs. The small size of the fox helps it in times of danger when it needs to take shelter in small enclosures that the predator cannot enter.
The color and thickness of the fox's coat is also a great adaptation. The coat of the San Miguel Island fox is a gray/sandy color with the ears darker. This serves as camouflage for the fox. The coat is also very thick which is good for insulation and protection of the skin. Another adaptation of the Island fox is that it is susceptible to diseases and parasites that normally it would have an immunity to. This is due to the isolation of the fox. The fact that the fox can easily contract diseases may make it a health hazard to other animals on the island.
The one adaptation that could eliminated and result in profit is the fox's susceptibility to diseases and parasites. The fox's susceptibility to such things presents danger to other creatures on the San Miguel Island.
A large population of the San Miguel Island fox is already in captivity (captive fox breeding programs) on the Channel Islands. Since several of the foxes are already in captivity, it would be useful to try and fix the problem. The fox would be given vaccines just as humans are to expose the fox to different stimuli. Vaccines contain dead strains of the disease so that when the disease or bacteria enter your body, your body has already been exposed and can defend itself against the foreign bacteria. Obviously, it would difficult to vaccinate every fox on the island but having a large majority of the fox population vaccinated would assist in eliminating the problem. Before going through the process of vaccination, I would need to learn more about the diet of the fox to determine what animals it comes into contact with most. This would tell me what diseases or parasites the prey carries and whether or not it is the result of the San Miguel Island fox.
The only downside to this plan is that by giving the fox vaccines, it could create a new species of the Island fox that could be prone to coming into contact with bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. The vaccines will initially give the fox immunity to most diseases and parasites but bacteria do become resistant overtime to antibiotics. This alone could create a whole new species that is susceptible to the very dangerous and non-treatable bacteria. This new species would then procreate, producing offspring that is susceptible to the same strain of bacteria.
I think it would be appropriate and ethical to continue with the process of vaccination because it will, at the very least, expose this species of fox to common diseases and parasites that it otherwise would not be able to fight off. It will give the fox the basic immunities needed for survival.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. December, 10, 2001. http://www.epa.gov/EPA-IMPACT/2001/December/Day-10/i30188.htm. Downloaded on July, 29, 2008.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

San Miguel Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis littoralis)

Hi everyone! Today on The Fox Hunter I want to welcome you to the fascinating world of the endangered San Miguel Island Fox, known to scientists as Urocyon littoralis littoralis. It belongs to the Domain Eukarya and Kingdom Anamalia. The San Miguel Island Fox is a mammal located on San Miguel Island which is part of the Channel Islands and can also be found in California and Nevada. The island biomes in which it resides include temperate forest, temperate grassland and chaparral. This is a beautiful fox that is also the smallest fox species known from the United States. The adult males weigh approximately 2 kg and females weigh 1.88 kg. Their fur is greyish-white and black with cinnamon underfur on the dorsal side and pale white, yellow and brown on the ventral side. It's nose, eyes, chin and lips are lined in black.

Young foxes have a thicker but paler coat and darker ears compared to the adult foxes as seen in this picture:
The San Miguel Island fox eats fruits, insects, birds, eggs, small mammals such as the deer mice, lizards and crabs. As you can see, this critter helps control the rodent/insect population in it's area. This fox is generally nocturnal and tends to travel alone rather than in packs.

One of the main reasons that the San Miguel Island fox has a high mortality rate is because of the Golden eagle. The Golden eagle did not appear on the Channel Islands until the 90's when their main food source, feral pigs, on Santa Rosa Island was exterminated. The Golden eagle is four times the size of the Island fox, which makes the fox easy prey. The fox is also very susceptible to diseases from other animals, especially the domestic dog, because it is isolated and has not had much exposure to diseases.

With global warming issues on the rise, there is great concern for the San Miguel Island fox. The rise in temperature due to global warming will bring more mosquitoes that may carry diseases. The Island fox is an isolated animal therefore, does not have immunity to diseases or parasites. This makes it more likely that the San Miguel Island fox can contract deadly diseases that are an indirect result of global warming.

Recovery efforts of the fox are being made by removing the Golden eagle from the San Miguel Island. There are also captive breeding programs underway on all four islands. A vaccination program has also been initiated to protect foxes from canine distemper. Since the Channel Islands are entirely owned by the Catalina Island Conservancy and federal government, there is a good chance that the Island fox will receive the protection it needs.

Friends of the Island Fox. July 5, 2008. http://islandfox.org/uploaded_images/foxinhand-796661.jpg. Downloaded on July 16, 2008.

Friends of the Island Fox. July 5, 2008. http://www.santabarbarazoo.org/images/island_pup1.jpg. Downloaded on July 16, 2008.

National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior. July 25, 2006.
http://www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/san-miguel-island.htm. Downloaded on July 16, 2008.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Trouble in Paradise: California's Island Fox. 2004.
http://nationalzoo.si.edu/publications/zoogoer/2004/4/islandfoxes.cfm. Downloaded on July 16, 2008.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Threatened and Endangered Animals and Plants. February 19, 2008. http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/SpeciesReport.do?spcode=A08I. Downloaded on July 16, 2008.