Bringing A Delicate Ecosystem Back in Balance

Brandts Cormorants colony on San Nicolas Island.

On February 15, project partners and media took a short flight to San Nicolas Island, the most remote of the eight islands in the Channel Islands archipelago. The ceremony and island visit was to commemorate the completion of the MSRP-funded seabird restoration project to remove feral cats from the island. San Nicolas Island is owned and managed by the U.S. Navy and boasts numerous wildlife populations, including the endemic San Nicolas island fox, the island night lizard, nesting seabirds, and breeding seals and sea lions.

Once on the island, everyone was greeted by the U.S. Navy officials before loading onto a bus to begin a scenic tour of the rugged terrain and breathtaking landscape of San Nicolas Island. This visit was an especially unique experience for the media, as permission to embark on the island is typically restricted to Navy personnel and contractors.  As the bus climbed steep terrain and fog rolled in and out, the complexity and challenges of this important project became apparent.

Photo of the southern part of San Nicolas Island showing the rugged terrain.

The San Nicolas Island Restoration Project was the fifth largest feral cat removal project worldwide and the largest successfully completed without the use of poison. Island Conservation and the Institute for Wildlife Studies worked tirelessly to ensure project success. Fifty-nine cats were removed from the island and transported to the Wildlife Care Center in Ramona, CA, with funding and support from The Humane Society of the United States. Any foxes that were injured during the project were cared for at a mobile veterinary hospital on the island managed by the Institute for Wildlife Studies. All logistics with trapping and detecting cats on the island were handled by Island Conservation, an organization that specializes in non-native species removal to restore island ecosystems.  Project partners were also awarded a Natural Resource Conservation and Communication Partnerships Award by the National Military Fish & Wildlife Association this year.

Biologist checks San Nicolas Island fox for injuries.

After a short project ceremony with Captain James McHugh, Commanding Officer for the Naval Base Ventura County, the last stop on the tour was to visit elephant seals and sea lion breeding colonies. As the tour came to an end, everyone was left with a sense of how delicate this island ecosystem is and how the successful completion of the project will benefit seabirds, island foxes, and island night lizards for many years to come.

Learn more about MSRP’s seabird restoration projects







-Gabrielle Dorr, MSRP Outreach Coordinator