Saving the Catalina Island Fox

What a miraculous project!

In 1999, the population of Catalina Island Foxes had been decimated by the introduction of canine distemper to the island. The foxes had no immunity to this disease, and 90 percent of the fox population perished.

In 2000, only 100 foxes remained – concentrated in the west end of the island beyond Two Harbors. At that time virus had not spread across the Two Harbors isthmus. Due to concern for their future, The Catalina Island Fox was listed as a federally endangered species in 2004.

The Santa Catalina Island Conservancy ( took immediate action and sought the help of Dave Garcelon’s Institute for Wildlife Studies ( to develop a plan to save the foxes. It was Swallow Creek’s job to document and raise awareness of their efforts. This took me from the ridge lines with the trappers to hikes into the breeding pens in the island’s interior.

It was truly an amazing opportunity to be on the leading edge of wildlife conservation, and to meet so many concerned people working together for the future of the foxes.

Catalina Island Fox pair in breeding pen
Catalina Island Fox pair in breeding pen

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending! Due to the efforts of the Conservancy and The Institute for Wildlife Studies, it is estimated that the fox population exceeded 1,800 at the end of 2013. Although as of Summer, 2014, the foxes are once again thriving on their island home, but are still on the endangered species list.

Here is a 10 minute summary of the Conservancy’s efforts to save the foxes. The full production won Videographer and Telly awards in the categories of Environmental and Fundraising.

So happy to have helped the foxes by raising awareness of their plight!