New Airplane
IWS recently purchased a Cessna 172 aircraft for use on a variety of projects.  The airplane will initially be stationed on San Clemente Island, where it is being used to keep track of a large
number of radio-collared island foxes located across the island.  Piloted by IWS
staff biologist Glen Enzfelder, the airplane will be used to support aerial
monitoring as well as to transport equipment and personnel.
Background shorebirds
Collared Island Fox
Collared Island Fox
Island Fox Sentinel Monitoring

Our new aircraft is essential in the strategy of the Epidemic Response Plan for San Clemente Island Foxes (Hudgens et al. 2011). The plan is based on early detection of disease to avoid an epidemic. Unvaccinated, radio-collared foxes act as “sentinels” for pathogen introduction. We are using a similar approach for the Catalina Island Conservancy. On islands with many terraces and canyons, signals from these foxes are most easily picked up by a receiver in the aircraft. This information, combined with field sampling, can provide for a rapid response should an epidemic occur.


Island foxes are particularly susceptible to disease epidemics due to their evolutionary isolation from mainland pathogens and generally low genetic diversity (Munson 2010). The potential threat to island foxes posed by an infectious disease is highlighted by the decimation of the Santa Catalina Island fox due to a canine distemper virus (CDV) epidemic (Timm et al. 2009).

Literature Cited

Hudgens, B. R., T.W. Vickers, D. K. Garcelon, and J. N. Sanchez.  2011.  Epidemic Response Plan for San Clemente Island Foxes.  Unpublished report prepared for the U. S. Navy by the Institute for Wildlife Studies, Arcata, California.

Munson, Linda.  2010.  Diseases of island foxes. Pages 129-143 in Coonan, T.J., C.A. Schwemm, and D.K. Garcelon, editors. Decline and recovery of the island fox. Cambridge University Press, NY. 212pp.

Timm, S.F., L. Munson, B. Summers, K. Terio, E. Dubovi, C. Rupprecht, S. Kapil, and D.K. Garcelon.  2009.  A suspected canine distemper epidemic as the cause of a catastrophic decline in Santa Catalina Island foxes (Urocyon littoralis catalinae).  Journal of Wildlife Disease 45:333-343. PDF