The Island fox is a small fox that is native to six of the eight Channel Islands of California. There are six subspecies, each unique to the island it lives on, reflecting its evolutionary history. Island foxes are generally docile, show little fear of humans, and are easily tamed. They have gray fur on their head, a ruddy red coloring on their sides, white fur on their belly, throat and the lower half of their face. There is also a black stripe on the dorsal surface of their tail. Males in this species are always larger than the females.
Island foxes live on the six largest of the eight California Channel Islands located off the southern California coast, USA. These are San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Cruz Island, San Nicolas Island, Santa Catalina Island and, San Clemente Island. Island foxes prefer complex layer vegetation with a high density of woody, perennially fruiting shrubs. They live in all of the island biomes including temperate forest, oak woodlands, pine forests, temperate grassland and chaparral, beaches, and sand dunes.
Island foxes tend to move around alone, rather than in packs. They are generally nocturnal creatures with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk. However, in summer Island foxes are more active during the day. They are quite easy to tame and are generally docile. Island foxes communicate using auditory, olfactory and visual signals. A dominant fox uses vocalizations, staring, and ear flattening to cause another fox to submit. Signs of dominance and submission are visual, such as facial expression and body posture. Main vocalizations include barking and growling. Island foxes are territorial and mark territory with urine and feces. They are also good tree climbers.
Island foxes are monogamous and mate for life. Breeding pairs are frequently seen together beginning in January and through the breeding season, from late February to early March. The gestation period lasts around 50-63 days. The female gives birth in a den, a typical litter having 1 to 5 kits, with an average of 2 or 3. Kits are blind and helpless with short dark brown hair at birth. They are born in the spring and emerge from the den in early summer. The young are usually weaned at 7-9 weeks and reach reproductive maturity when they are 10 months old. They will be able to breed after one year of age.
Main threats to Island foxes include loss of their habitat, degradation of the habitat due to introduced mammal species, including feral cats, pigs, sheep, goats, and American bison. They also suffer greatly from predation by non-native Golden eagles, trapping, diseases brought by domestic dogs, and car accidents.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Island foxes is around 4,001 mature individuals. San Miguel Island holds 400 mature individuals; Santa Rosa Island - 280 mature individuals; Santa Cruz Island - 1,200 foxes with 880 mature individuals; Santa Catalina Island - 1,500 individuals; San Clemente Island - 1,100 individuals; San Nicolas Island - 600-800 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are increasing.