About the Channel Islands

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Santa Cruz Island

Island FoxDespite their location just off the coast—a mere stone’s throw from the suburban sprawl of Los Angeles— The California Channel Islands are a worldIsland Scrub Jay away from the 21 million people who call Southern California their home. The Channel Islands diverse terrain hosts an astonishing array of wildlife. Over 2,000 species of plants and animals can be found within the Channel Islands National Park and at least 145 of these species are only found on the islands and nowhere else on Earth.


The Channel Islands harbor numerous types of terrestrial—or land—animals, including four unique species.   Added to the federal endangered species list in March 2004, the Island Fox (left) has been the top predator on many of the islands for thousands of years. The diminutive fox, the harvest mouse, deer mouse and the spotted skunk are endemic to the Channel Islands, meaning they exist nowhere else. These animals share the islands with various bats, snakes, salamanders, frogs, and more than 200 species of birds, including the island scrub jay (right).

The Channel Islands lie within the boundary of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, which extends six nautical miles from the shores of the northern Channel Islands. The sanctuary’s waters teem with extraordinary life, nurtured by a fertile combination of warm and cool currents. Forests of giant kelp flourish offshore, providing important nurseries for fish and invertebrates. More than 26 different species of cetaceans, including the endangered blue, hump-back and sei whales, pass through on seasonal migrations. Onshore, sea lions and harbor seals sunbathe on beaches, while marine birds, including California brown pelicans, California least terns and western gulls, hover and nest nearby.

• Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the Channel Islands (60,645 acres, 96 square miles)
• It is 24 miles long and from 2 - 6 miles wide
• 76% is owned by The Nature Conservancy, and 24% by National Park Service
• It is from 19 to 25 miles from the mainland
• It has the highest peak in the Channel Islands (Picacho Diablo) at 2,470 ft.
• It has the greatest number of plant and animal species of the Channel Islands
• There are 650 plants that grow on the island and 480 are native
• Eight plants are endemic to Santa Cruz Island (they grow naturally only on the island and no where else in the world)
• 37 plants that grow on Santa Cruz Island are found only on the Channel Islands


Santa Cruz Island from the Mainland