December 19, 2014
Ten Santa Cruz Island fox pups have been released into the wild, the last of a group reared in captivity as part of an effort to restore the endangered species.
Tim Coonan, a biologist with the National Park Service, says the pups scurried into wooded canyons yesterday afternoon in the middle of the 96-square-mile island off Santa Barbara.
The released pups were born in the spring and will have access to feeding stations containing dog food over the next month.
Their parents, about 10 foxes, will be released in a month.
There were once 1,500 foxes on the island, but their numbers have dwindled to as few as 80.
Pigs and turkeys brought by ranchers have provided prey for golden eagles, which in turn also began feasting on the foxes.
Coonan says the fox population has since rebounded to more than 300 with the help of the breeding program.