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Making a Comeback: California Island Foxes are No Longer Extinct

Aug 12, 2016 05:48 AM EDT

Good news! The population of rare island foxes in California, after being in the brink of extinction, is now recovering at a rapid rate.

According to a report from Reuters, three groups of California's island fox found on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands were removed from the U.S. endangered species list on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a fourt suppecies found on Santa Catalina Islan was downgraded from being endangered to threatened, NPR reports.

The outlet notes that this is considered the fastest recovery to date for an American mammal that was once deemed to be nearing extinction.

The island fox are cousins to the mainland gray fox and is one of the rarest mammals in the U.S. They weigh 3 to 5 pounds (1.4 to 2.3 kilograms) and stand about a foot (30.5 cm) tall.

During the late 1990s, the population of the four subspecies mentioned above plunged to fewer than 200. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that it dramatically increase to nearly 6,000 in 2015.

NPR notes that the recovery of the island fox was the result of a collaboration between the National Park Service, Nature Conservancy and Catalina Island Conservancy. The three organizations conducted a multi-stage program, involving relocating the golden eagles, eliminating feral pigs and then trapping and captive-breeding the Island foxes.

The existence of island foxes in the Channel Islands has been a mystery to this day because no one knows how they got there. Researchers say that the wipe-out of fish-eating bald eagle and the introduction of non-native golden eagle, which preyed on island foxes, caused the species to be almost extinct

In 2008, 230 captive-bred foxes were released into the wild. There are now almost 6,000 on the four islands.

To know more these small island foxes that are making a comeback, check out the video below.

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