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The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild.
Island Fox at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Click to see more.

Island Fox

Urocyon littoralis


Canidae, dog and coyote family

Conservation Status

The IUCN lists this species as Near Threatened, an improvement from its previous status of “Critically Endangered”. The Living Desert has help in this recovery. We were involved in establishing and monitoring ex situ island populations while threats to the wild population were ameliorated. We also provided captive husbandry expertise and participation on the federal recovery team.


The Channel Islands off the coast of southern California. There are six distinct subspecies which are recognized, one on each of the islands where they occur. Each island fox population is recognized as a separate endemic or unique subspecies.


All habitats on the islands, including valley and foothill grasslands, coastal sage scrub, sand dunes, island chaparral, coastal oak and pine forests, and marshes.


Island foxes are thought to have evolved in the three largest northern Channel Islands and were moved to the three largest southern Channel Islands by the Chumash native people who traded with the Gabrielino people of the southern islands. The Chumash considered the fox to be a sacred animal–a pet of the sun, and possibly a dream helper. The Island Chumash performed a fox dance and probably used the pelts of foxes to make articles like arrow quivers, capes, and headdresses.