Catalina Island Visitor Information
Catalina Island's Wild Side
As you may know, Catalina today is managed by a non-profit environmental organization called the Catalina Island Conservancy. This group is quite zealous in its protection of the island's habitats, which is why there are many rules and regulations for visitors wishing to visit Catalina's back country.
These rules may seen burdensome to many, but such people will change their minds (hopefully) after seeing the many unique and beautiful life forms that have thrived under the Conservancy's rigid protections.
Unique Plant Life
Catalina Island is home to over 400 different species of vegetation; at least six of these are found nowhere else in the world. One of these is the Catalina Mahogany plant. Despite its name, it is not a tree but a bush that is related to the rose as well as the raspberry and strawberry plants. Known to botanists as cercocarpus traskiae, this plant is considered a critically endangered species.
Another more common plant is the appropriately-named St. Catherine's Lace, or erogonum giganteum. This is a type of flowering grass that is somewhat similar to St. Anne's Lace, but can grow up to nine feet tall in groups measuring nine feet across.
The Island Fox is another Catalina Island species that is critically endangered. This is a gray fox that scientists believe "rafted" to the island some 16,000 years ago. They are substantially smaller than other fox species, having diminished in size in response to the island's limited resources.
There are also three rodent species (a variety of California Ground Squirrel, the Catalina Harvest Mouse and the Catalina Island Deer Mouse) as well as an extremely rare type of shrew, called the Ornate Shrew. This small, rodent-like animal may survive in the island's wetlands.
There are about 200 American bison on Catalina, all descended from a herd that was brought to the island in 1924 for the production of a silent film Western. Nearly half of these bison have some genetic material from domestic cattle, however.