The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a final rule (pdf) removing the San Miguel Island fox (Urocyon littoralis littoralis), Santa Rosa Island fox (U. l. santarosae), and Santa Cruz Island fox (U. l. santacruzae) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service also reclassified the Santa Catalina Island fox (U. l. catalinae) from an endangered species to a threatened species.
The island fox is a relative of the gray fox. They inhabit the six largest of the eight California Channel Islands and are recognized as distinct subspecies on each of the six islands. The Service originally listed the four subspecies of island fox as endangered in 2004 due primarily to habitat modification by nonnative grazing animals and nonnative plant invasion. However, eradication programs on all islands have greatly reduced the number of nonnative herbivores on the islands and, therefore, the magnitude of impacts to the habitat of the island foxes. While nonnative plant species continue to impact the subspecies’ habitat, the Service has concluded that the threats to the San Miguel Island fox, Santa Rosa Island fox, and Santa Cruz Island fox have been eliminated or reduced to the point that each of the subspecies no longer meets the definition of an endangered or threatened species under the ESA. The threats to the Santa Catalina Island fox have been reduced to the point that the subspecies can be reclassified as a threatened species.
In addition to the final rule, the Service announced the availability of a final post-delisting monitoring plan for the three species removed from the threatened or endangered species list.