Tracks in the Sand – Saving the Catalina Island Fox

The project I completed for the Orange County Bird of Prey Center (“Second Chances”) in 2001 happened at the perfect time to be noticed by the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy. They had an urgent need to save the Catalina Island Fox from certain extinction, and they needed a documentary to educate the public and raise awareness of their efforts.

In 1999, the population of 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.

At the turn of the century, only 100 foxes remained – concentrated in the very end of the island beyond Two Harbors. The Catalina Island Fox was listed as a federally endangered species in 2004.

The Conservancy sought the help of Dave Garcelon’s Institute for Wildlife Studies to develop a plan to save the foxes, and it was Swallow Creek’s job to document and raise awareness of their efforts. This took me from the hiking 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 have yet to be delisted as endangered, they are once again thriving on their island home.

The production “Tracks in the Sand – Saving the Catalina Island Fox” was about 30 minutes long and was completed in 2002. It won a Videographer award and Telly awards in the categories of Environmental and Fundraising productions.

This 10 minute video summarizes the work of the Conservancy to save the foxes.

The video was used to raise awareness of the plight of the Catalina Island Fox. My dream had come true. I had made a difference for an endangered species.

For more information about the status of the Catalina Island Fox, visit the Conservancy’s website: You can learn more about Dave Garcelon and The Institute for Wildlife Studies’ site: