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Nature's Biggest Comebacks

Santa Cruz Island Fox

Our scientists have chosen the top 10 comeback stories in nature. These are the places, ecosystems and species that have been brought back from the brink of disaster. See what made the cut from the last century — and what we hope will be on our list in the next.

Santa Cruz Island Fox

Until the 1990s, the tiny, 4-pound Santa Cruz Island fox ruled the small island off the coast of California. 

Then came the pigs. The feral pigs attracted golden eagles, which also snacked on the foxes. 

In less than a decade, golden eagles drove the fox population from 1,500 to fewer than 100 animals. In 2002, The Nature Conservancy, together with the National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Game, initiated a captive breeding program to help save the fox. 

In six seasons, 85 pups were produced through the program and released in to the wild with radio collars. The successful breeding program was phased out in 2007, and the fox population is back up to 1,300. Today, biologists continue to track and monitor the health of the foxes on the island that is now pig-free.  

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