The Catalina Island Fox, an omnivorous fox subspecies found only on Santa Catalina Island, has outwitted extinction in an unprecedented creature comeback.
Conservationists began a recovery program for the gray, pointed nose canid in the late 1990s following a distemper epidemic that saw the fox population plummet to a sparse population of about 100 on the 76-square-mile island. When the captive breeding program ended in 2004, the foxes were listed as endangered.
There are now 1,542 cat-sized foxes that share the island with approximately 3,200 humans and more than 1 million tourists a year, reports the L.A. Times. In the foxes' favor, no natural predators exist on the island, and plenty of food — from mice to cherries — is readily available.
It's considered one of the most successful recoveries ever for an endangered species, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The rebound has federal wildlife authorities elated. "It is one of the great recovery efforts — up to this point," said Stephanie Weagley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We still have a lot of management and fieldwork to do."