The Channel Islands National Park is a magical place.
It's home to the island fox, which only lives on six of the eight Channel Islands, and nowhere else on Earth. As recently as 2004, all island fox subspecies were on the federal endangered list.
In 1999, an island fox recovery program was instituted. You might immediately think this involved breeding island foxes, but that's only part of what's brought this unique canid back from the brink in 2016.
Another part meant axing non-native species on individual islands. Including Santa Cruz's Argentine ant population.
WHY DO THEY HAVE TO BE ARGENTINE?
Let's back up. Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) are the single most invasive ant species on the planet. You may never have visited Argentina, but we guarantee you've seen these guys.
Unless you're reading this from Antarctica (the only place that Argentine ants haven't thrived--so far, anyway), you may even see these guys every single day.
OKAY, BUT IF THEY AREN'T EATING MY HOUSE, WHAT DO THEY HURT?
Say some random person off the street comes to your house, breaks in, and tosses you out on the street. Maybe they steal your stuff, maybe they eat all your food, maybe they hurt or kill you--or maybe they just settle for taking over your place.
Now pretend you're a native ant (specific kind doesn't matter; whatever's native to your area). That's essentially what Argentine ants do to every single other ant on Earth. (They're terrible neighbors. Jerks.)
BUT THE PROBLEM WASN'T JUST THE ARGENTINE ANTS
Islands are more delicate ecosystems than larger plots of land. So every little change to the area's natural biodiversity is a huge deal. Golden eagles (chief predators of the tiny island foxes) had to be dealt with, so a bald eagle (natural enemy of the golden eagle) program was instated.
Other non-native species including sheep and pigs had to be systematically removed and/or killed off, as well. Even non-native bees had to go. You can see this was a massive undertaking.
Watch a video about the project here:
For a worthwhile long read with great photos, go here:
For more information on island foxes and their recovery, go here: