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Invasive Species: Arctic Foxes Removed From Chirikof Island, Alaska

Sep 28, 2015 12:11 PM EDT
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Arctic foxes have troubled native Alaskan species for many years. Now, a decade-long eradication process is a step closer to completion with the recent removal of 242 arctic foxes from Chirikof Island, the forty-fifth Alaska island to undergo the enviromental balancing procedure.

The most recent eradication took place from May 18 through Sept. 4. Four trappers camping on the island removed 236 adults and six juvenile foxes. This work was supported by the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (AMNWR)and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services.

"It's a big deal," Steve Delehanty, manager of the refuge, said in a statement. "It's been a marked success."

Non-native Arctic foxes were originally introduced to 225 islands in Alaska for fur farming in 1836. At the time, the idea seemed to make sense because they would feed on the abundant populations of seabirds. But the plan backfired over time; the foxes are responsible for the near extinction of several types of native birds because they attack everything from eggs to adults.

Arctic foxes hunted the Aleutian Canada goose (also called the cackling goose) to near extinction, according to the AMNWR, but the birds have recovered after being reintroduced to islands where the foxes have already been removed.

Three islands have yet to be eradicated of their foxes, notes Steve Ebbert, a biologist at the refuge. Trappers will return to Chirikof next summer to make sure the removal processes have been successful.

The refuge has future plans to remove other non-native species from the ara, including wild cattle that were first introduced there in the late 1880s to provide meat for whaling crews and fox traders.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Samantha on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13

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