Nicknamed “Garth,” the three-month-old fox was rescued by Navy personnel on San Clemente Island.
He was cared for by Navy wildlife biologists until the ceremony, where they handed him over to the Santa Barbara Zoo. He was abandoned by his parents as a young pup, so he never learned basic survival skills and was not a candidate for release back into the wild.
San Clemente Island is the natural habitat of the Channel Island fox, which has been classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a critically endangered species. It is also the Navy’s largest live-fire training range in the continental United States and a proving ground for military services conducting training before deploying overseas.
Melissa Booker, a Navy wildlife biologist for San Clemente Island, said the Navy has taken precautions to preserve the natural habitat of the island and maintain a safe environment for its inhabitants.
“People have visions of bombardment ranges, but that is not it at all,” she said. “In fact, we have more foxes on the island than we ever have before, even though the tempo of training has increased. People are really good at looking for them on the roads and making sure there isn’t anything for them to get tangled in.”
By giving Santa Barbara its newest resident, the Navy can continue to foster relationships with California communities.
“We can cohabitate with the natural environment,” said Cmdr. Walter Glenn, the officer in charge of San Clemente Island. “The Navy can do its mission of training warfighters while remaining a good steward to the environment. This [fox transfer] highlights that.”
Booker said the Navy worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and California Department of Fish and Game to coordinate the transfer.
The Santa Barbara Zoo was the best choice for placing Garth, she said, since they already had a Channel Island fox enclosure, and they have an Outreach and Education program that will use the endangered animal as an ambassador to help teach about conservation.
The Navy has done a very good job of managing for the species, Booker said. For the conservation of the species it is important for people to understand them and have an appreciation for this fox that lives in North America and only on the Channel Islands.
Party on, Garth.
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW/AW) Benjamin Crossley
Navy Public Affairs Support Element West
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