Saved from extinction, Southern California’s Channel Island Foxes now face new threat to survival

Starting in the 1990s, Island Fox populations began to dwindle due to an outbreak of canine distemper and an increase in attacks by golden eagles. Some islands saw their population drop to as low as 15 individuals, but conservation efforts by the Federal government restored numbers by 2017. A new study reveals a worrying decrease in genetic diversity within the species, signaling a new threat to the Channel Islands foxes’ survival. The decrease in genetic diversity reduces the foxes’ ability to adapt to future challenges, such as climate change and introduced pathogens, putting their survival at risk once again. Although the foxes have low genetic diversity, they possess diverse gut microbiomes that could help them cope with environmental changes.