Santa Cruz Islands will be off-limits to the public after this week, to ensure that no visitors are harmed while the National Park Service exterminates roughly 2,500 unwanted swine from the land.

NPS restrictions on the island will begin on Nov. 1 and will close off all areas of the island except Scorpion Valley and Prisoner’s Harbor, said Channel Islands National Park Superintendents Russell Galipeau. He said the pigs, which were first introduced to the island by farmers in the 1850s, have since damaged the island’s ecosystem and threatened its endangered fox population, making it necessary to exterminate the pigs. The island should reopen by March 2006, he said.

Prohunt Inc. – a New Zealand-based professional hunting firm specializing in the removal of non-native island species – is managing the $5 million pig removal project. Galipeau said Prohunt personnel will fly over the island in helicopters and will shoot the pigs from the air. The pig eradication project, he said, began in March 2005 when the island fox was declared an endangered species. Since then, approximately 1,500 pigs have been exterminated.

Galipeau said the pigs attract golden eagles from the mainland, who have become dependent on both the pigs and the native island fox as a food source.

“The long-term recovery of the endangered island fox is reliant upon the successful removal of pigs on Santa Cruz Island,” Galipeau said.

Lotus Vermeer, director of nature conservancy for Santa Cruz Island, said the pig population must be exterminated and the golden eagles must be relocated if the island fox species is to survive. She said the island fox was never threatened by birds of prey prior to the arrival of the golden eagles on the island. As a result, the island fox does not know how to defend itself from predatory birds.

“Foxes are very na