The Channel Islands National Park is a fantastic area to connect with nature and spot wildlife. In fact, there are some endemic plants and animals that can only be found on the Islands. Here are some of the most famous plants and animals to look for that are found only on the Channel Islands!
The most photographed, and arguably the cutest animal on the island, is the island fox. This small mammal lives on six of the eight Channel Islands and is found nowhere else on earth. In fact, each Island has its own subspecies of the fox, yet they all descended from the mainland gray fox. Although this fox is easily found on Santa Cruz Island, the fox was on the endangered species list less than 20 years ago due to an unbalanced ecosystem. Thanks to drastic conservation efforts, the island fox population is now healthy once again. At only about a foot high, it is hard to believe, but this little animal is the top predator on the island, so they are now plentiful and easy to spot while exploring Santa Cruz. Just resist the urge to feed them!
Island Scrub Jay
Did you know that there is a famous bird that people travel all over the world to see on Santa Cruz Island? The Island Scrub Jay is a vibrant blue bird with a distinctive call, which makes it relatively easy to spot and a treat to see. This bird is related to the mainland Western Scrub Jay and is slightly larger and bluer than its mainland relative. The Jay is only found on Santa Cruz Island though there is historical evidence that the Jays also used to live on Santa Rosa Island. Although the birds seem plentiful on the island, because they only live on the one island, they have an extremely small population and are one of the rarest birds in the United States!
The Island Spotted Skunk is another mammal endemic to the islands, found only on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa. This little guy is named after the white broken lines marking its back that appears like spots against its black glossy fur. It is one of two terrestrial carnivores on the islands, the other being the foxes. The spotted skunk is a nocturnal animal, most active in the early morning hours just before dawn and tends to stay away from humans, so it is one of the more difficult animals to spot.
An endemic plant found throughout the national park is Island Paintbrush. Species of this beautiful plant are found throughout North America, yet this specific variety grows only on the islands and is well adapted to the dry, Mediterranean climate in which it grows. The flower of this plant is typically red, but yellow blooms can be found as well. The spring season is a great time to get out and hunt for flowers.
One other plant worth noting is the Torrey Pine. It is found in two places in the world, Santa Rosa Island in Channel Islands National Park and Northern San Diego. The interesting disparity between the range of the plant relates back to the geological theory that the Islands were once off the coast of San Diego and moved their way up over the centuries. The Torrey is one of the rarest pine trees and grows well in the coastal climate in which it dwells; it is drought tolerant and often grows beautiful, twisted trunks as the wind daily shapes it. Although it is more out of the way, it is a great tree to see!
Learn more about animals at the Channel Islands National Park here!
With all these unique plants and animals out on the Channel Islands, try to spot some on your next trip out, they are well worth the hunt!