To Save A Fox From Extinction, Scientists Took To Land, Air And Sea When the population of Channel Islands foxes started to vanish in the '90s, no one knew why. Bringing them back from near-extinction has meant unraveling a mystery that started with World War II.
NPR logo VIDEO: To Save A Fox, Scientists Took To Land, Air And Sea

VIDEO: To Save A Fox, Scientists Took To Land, Air And Sea

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If you want to see a wild island fox, you have to visit the remote Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. This special species doesn't live anywhere else.

Biologists were alarmed in the mid-'90s to discover that these foxes had suddenly and mysteriously started to disappear. In 1993, more than 1,500 had roamed the largest of the islands, Santa Cruz. By 2001, fewer than 100 remained. Extinction seemed imminent. But why?

A band of allies that included public and private organizations, ecologists, veterinarians and volunteers got together to figure out the path of ecological missteps that had led to the fox's decline. It all traced back, through a couple of twists and turns, to a pesticide developed by the Allies in World War II.

The team's journey to set things right included helicopter chases, an elite hunting squad from New Zealand, a remote-controlled egg and lots of determination. This is a conservation story with a high cost but, ultimately, a happy ending — something almost as rare as the island fox.


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