CATALINA ISLAND— Catalina Island, one of the eight Channel Islands off the coast of California, is home to a wider diversity of animals than any other Channel Island. Because of its large size and proximity to the mainland, Catalina has the highest diversity of any Channel Island for reptiles and amphibians, with four species of amphibians and eight species of reptiles.
In addition, Catalina is also home to several endemic, introduced, and endangered species. Endemic species include the Catalina Island Fox, who were on the brink of extinction until the Catalina Island Conservancy brought the species back from the brink by establishing a captive breeding program using breeding pairs trapped in the wild, and a successful public awareness campaign.
The American bison is a non-native mammal that walks the island after a herd was introduced to the grounds in 1924. The bison were brought in to for the purpose of a film and remained on the island due to high cost to remove them.
The bald eagles that reside on Catalina are among the endangered species that the island hosts. According to the CDFW, although bald eagles were taken off the endangered species list, the remain endangered in California. After two decades without an eagle sighting on the island, the Conservancy first helped fund the Bald Eagle Restoration Program in 1980. A new generation of adult eagles began to lay their eggs in nests on Catalina in 1987, but the eggs all broke before hatching. The Institute for Wildlife Studies (IWS) biologists began helping the eagles by retrieving the fragile eggs, hatching them off-site in incubators, and returning healthy chicks to the nests. The parents then accepted them back and raised them. In 2007, DDT levels had finally decreased enough to allow bald eagles to hatch eggs in the wild successfully, and by 2009, all nests on Catalina were left to natural hatching and incubation. Because of the dedication of IWS and its staff, in cooperation with the Catalina Island Conservancy, Catalina-native bald eagles soar along the island’s cliffs once again.
Catalina Island has at least 61 endemic species and subspecies, including eight plants, five mammals, three birds, and 45 invertebrates.
According to the Catalina Island Conservancy, the island is also home to eight species of bats, 46 different species of birds, three species of butterfly, one canine, one cricket, two species of frogs, four species of lizards, nine rodent species, two salamanders, three seals and sea lions, one shrew, three snails, eight snakes, and four ungulates.
Catalina Island also has the most introduced animals, partly due to the island’s larger human population. The blackbuck antelope was another species that was introduced to the island by humans. Any wildlife species that were brought to Catalina Island by people since European contact are considered non-native.