These tiny island foxes just bounced back from near extinction

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Channel Island Foxes Quickly Recover From Near Extinction

These adorable miniature foxes native to California's Channel Islands were classified as an endangered species back in 2004.

But now, just 12 years later, federal officials say three subspecies of the little guys have made a full recovery.

And that's a pretty big deal.

SEE MORE: A Majority Of The World's Largest Animals Could Be Extinct By 2100

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the foxes that roam the islands of San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz were declared federally endangered after golden eagles nearly wiped them out.

Officials say, by 2000, there were only 15 foxes each left on San Miguel and Santa Rosa and 55 foxes left on Santa Cruz.

See more of the adorable Island fox:

8 PHOTOS
Island Fox
See Gallery
Island Fox
One of a breeding pair of Channel Island foxes peers out of a new LA Zoo fox exhibit Thursday morning August 15 2002. The zoo introduced three species of foxes, red, batÂeared and the pair of Channel Island foxes, into three new habitats which depict visually their similarities and differences. The new environs where built with funds from an Ahmanson Foundation grant. DIGITAL IMAGE (Photo by Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A one yearÂold female Channel Islands Fox. Federal officials announced Thursday that the Channel Island fox has been designated an Endangered Species. Island foxes on the Northern Channel Islands declined by over 95% from 1994 to 2000. Officials took members of the media to Santa Cruz Island to make the announcement. (Photo by Stephen Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Tim Coonan, a biologist with the National Park Service one of two young foxes to their new home. Federal officials announced Thursday that the Channel Island fox has been designated an Endangered Species. Island foxes on the Northern Channel Islands declined by over 95% from 1994 to 2000. Officials took members of the media to Santa Cruz Island to make the announcement. (Photo by Stephen Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis) with open mouth, yawning. WILD, Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park, California, ENDANGERED
Endangered endemic fox,population rebounding after major conservation effort
Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis) WILD, Jumping over rocks, Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park, California, ENDANGERED
Island fox on the Channel Islands
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

But thanks to an effort that bred the foxes in captivity while relocating their predators, the species made a record-breaking recovery.

The director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services said in a statement: "It's remarkable to think that in 2004, these foxes were given a 50 percent chance of going extinct in the next decade. Yet here we are today."

SEE ALSO: A majority of the world's largest animals could be extinct by 2100

But the recovery effort definitely had its fair share of controversy.

See, golden eagles prey on piglets, so wildlife officials said they had to shoot and kill thousands of feral pigs on the islands to force the eagles to hunt elsewhere. And several animal rights groups weren't too happy about that.

Still, wildlife officials consider the foxes' recovery a resounding success, and they say they hope it can be a template for saving other species.

This video includes clips from The Nature Conservancy, U.S. National Park Service and Planet Doc and images from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Music provided courtesy of APM Music.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners

Don't Get Too Close To a Newborn Giraffe Unless You Want to Get Kicked in the Nuts Don't Get Too Close To a Newborn Giraffe Unless You Want to Get Kicked in the Nuts
A Holocaust Survivor Found These Old Photographs - And Solved A Decades-Old Mystery A Holocaust Survivor Found These Old Photographs - And Solved A Decades-Old Mystery
Man Finds 5 Abandoned 'Puppies' In His Garden - Then Quickly Realizes He Made A Big Man Finds 5 Abandoned 'Puppies' In His Garden - Then Quickly Realizes He Made A Big