What does a successful animal conservation effort look like?

The Comeback Kits: Saving California’s Island Foxes

Vocabulary: conservation, Endangered Species Act, disease, predation, collaboration

NGSS: LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems, LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans, ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

A Santa Cruz island fox. Credit: The Nature Conservancy

For a few years, the island fox, seen above, was a rare find in the wild. But thanks to speedy conservation efforts, the tiny West Coast relative of the mainland gray fox is on the rebound. In fact, since the Endangered Species Act was first enacted in 1973, the island fox has shown the fastest recovery of any endangered mammal, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Access the full article here.

Questions for Students

  • Create a food web for the unbalanced ecosystem based on descriptions within the articles. How did this change as a result of the island fox conservation effort?
  • Explain the different stages that were required to return the ecosystems in the Santa Cruz Islands to their original state.
  • Why do mainland diseases, like canine distemper and rabies, have such a devastating effect on these island foxes? How does a vaccine program help to address those issues?
  • According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “the ultimate goal [of the Endangered Species Act] is to ‘recover’ species so they no longer need protection under the ESA”. Do you think the island fox conservation effort has met this goal? Why or why not?

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