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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

6 June 2016

Island fox in socks

Santa Cruz island fox

Santa Cruz island fox

7 May 2016

The last excursion of our California trip! A day out on Santa Cruz, one of the Channel Islands that lies off the coast near Los Angeles. What’s special about it is a species of fox that is only found on the Channel Islands, a very small fox called (originally) the Island Grey Fox and an example of island dwarfism. These foxes were very rare at one point, but now they’re actually ridiculously easy to see because several of them hang around the island campsite in broad daylight.

The conservation story is actually quite neat. Naturally enough, things went wrong when the native people were kicked off the islands and they were turned over to ranching and fishing activities. At this point the bald eagle population got wiped out, by pesticides and soforth. That left a gap. And in the 1990s somehow golden eagles turned up on the islands. And they like foxes, omnomnom. So the fox population crashed terribly. Once the alarm was raised, they managed to trap and remove all golden eagles from the islands and to re-establish a population of bald eagles, which don’t eat foxes but do dissuade golden eagles. Happy ending.

Oysters, final supper

Oysters, final supper

The trip to and from the island was worth the price of admission alone. There is a deep water canyon between Ventura and the islands, just like off Monterey, and the sea was absolutely alive with dolphins. I’m not exaggerating: hundreds visible at a time, so maybe thousands in total for all I can tell. And at least four or five humpback whales. The island foxes were easy to find; the ones around the campsite were manky specimens, obviously old ones who now find rummaging and begging a lot easier than hunting mice, but we saw a couple of more photogenic foxes in the grass too. Otherwise the island is fine for a ramble: grassy hills and towering clifftops with lovely sea views across to the other islands. Still, it was a little tricky to work out what to do with ourselves after a while. Oh the horror, we were even forced to relax a bit!

That evening we quaffed some of our bubbly and had a fish dinner out at what’s probably the best restaurant – or at least the most popular – in Ventura. Our last dinner in California, and a pretty good one. On the whole the food we’ve found this trip has been (a) twice as good as the food in California only 12 years ago and (b) generally quite good but nothing much spectacular. In particular the handful of places that we’ve been to that were touted as being truly excellent were not as good as what I’d call excellent. Guess we’re just spoiled in England. On the other hand, the worst we’ve had hasn’t been as bad as a really miserable meal back home, so take your pick.

Santa Cruz island views

Santa Cruz island views


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