AVALON, Calif. (AP) - Tiny, pointy-eared foxes that live on an island off the Southern California coast are thriving again after being recovered from near extinction, but the species is running into new problems.
Researchers say Catalina Island foxes are making their way out of the wild interior and into the city of Avalon, where they are increasingly found trapped inside trash bins, hit by cars and stuck in uncovered water containers.
Attacks by pet dogs and rat poison also have proven to be problems for the five-pound foxes, Julie King, the island’s conservation and wildlife management director, told the Daily Breeze newspaper for a story published Sunday (https://bit.ly/18sVlhW ).
Canine distemper virus decimated the fox population in 1999, leaving only about 100 of the animals. King and other biologists began a recovery program that included captive breeding and vaccination. By last year, an estimated 1,700 foxes were on the island.
Now King has embarked on an outreach effort to educate the island’s human residents and visitors on how to coexist with the animals without killing them. The Catalina Island Conservancy is raising money to buy 150 animal-proof trash and recycling containers that cost $2,000 each.
“The unhappy consequence of having a recovered population is that they’re moving into areas around Avalon where people haven’t seen foxes in their backyards for 15 years. They’ve become less diligent with trash practices,” King said.
She advised that residents keep their trash covered and not leave any food out - similar to how mainland residents deal with coyotes, possums and raccoons.
In 2014, at least 25 foxes died as a result of vehicle trauma, poisonings and other human-related interactions, researchers said. That’s more than the two previous years combined, in which a total of 20 Catalina Island foxes were killed by vehicles.
Information from: Daily Breeze, https://www.dailybreeze.com
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