Category Archives: Fox – Red fox; fox; European fox

Review of the Program to Eradicate Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) from Tasmania

The Tasmanian Government has been managing a program to eradicate red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) from Tasmania since 2002 in response to growing evidence of the presence of a small population. The funding partners in the program have been the Australian Government (curently through the Caring for Country initiative), the Tasmanian Government and the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre. In April 2009, the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) commissioned Landcare Research New Zealand Ltd to review the program to assess whether eradication was still a feasible goal and to identify changes that might be required.

Author John Parkes and Dean Anderson
Year 2009
Publisher Landcare Research (NZ)
Department For: Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment Tasmania
Pages 55
ISBN/ISSN Landcare Research Contract Report: LC0809/176
Region TAS
Documents Review of the Program to Eradicate Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) from Tasmania [2.35 Mb PDF]

Import Risk Analysis of Fox Entry Pathways into Tasmania

Overview of Risk Reduction Management Measures that could be taken against Fox Entry Pathways into Tasmania

Quarantine measures for protecting and maintaining Tasmania’s high standard of biosecurity must be periodically checked to ensure they remain fit-for-purpose. As part of this on-going process, the DPIW is reviewing risk measures that currently apply to matters of particularly serious quarantine concern to the State, such as that posed by the potential introduction of the exotic vermin, the European red fox, Vulpes vulpes. Each quarantine risk review undertaken is
informed by contemporary Import Risk Analysis (IRA) method which provides a scientifically credible, transparent foundation for policy decisions about quarantine measures.

Authorities have gathered sufficient evidence beyond reasonable doubt over the past decade to categorically confirm the presence of low numbers of red foxes in the State (Fox Eradication Program 2005). Popular belief suggests the presence of these foxes has most likely arisen from the wilful, illegal introduction of sets of fox cubs by one or more people in the late 1990’s, and is a situation exacerbated by the coincidental decline of the Tasmanian Devil population across much of the State due to the spread of a fatal facial tumour disease. Tasmanian Devil’s are believed to have provided an important predatory and/or competitive buffer against the establishment of foxes in the past. As the fox is far from being fully
established in Tasmania, every effort is being made by the Government to specifically target and eradicate the small number of vermin known to be present in selected areas of the State.

Secondary title Pathway Import Risk Analysis
Author Dr Darren Phillips
Year 2008
Publisher Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania
Pages 22
Region TAS
Documents Import Risk Analysis of Fox Entry Pathways into Tasmania [780kb PDF]

Improved Implementation of Regional Fox Management Programs 2010

The European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) has been identified by the Australian Vertebrate Pests Committee as a national priority invasive species, and fox predation has being identified as a key threatening process by the Commonwealth and NSW State Governments. It has been estimated to cost the Australian agricultural industries and the environment more than $227 million (McLeod 2004), topping the list of introduced vertebrate pest species. This project focuses on the strategic control actions for foxes to obtain long term benefits, and is consistent with the Australian Pest Animal Strategy.

Current best practice management of foxes in Australia, for both agricultural and conservation purposes promotes broad-scale, cooperative management programs, with community involvement and collaboration from government agencies  and private landholders. These regional-scaled, integrative programs give more effective long-term respite from fox predation damage, while maximising the cost-effectiveness, as they have a greater impact on this invasive species’ migratory and population compensatory abilities (Saunders and McLeod 2007). There are many examples from the conservation literature where such programs have significantly reduced the fox impact on threatened species although such programs are generally more intensive, heavily subsidised by the government and conducted over longer periods than conventional agricultural programs.

Author Lynette McLeod and Glen Saunders
Year 2010
Publisher NSW Department of Primary Industries
Department Vertebrate Pest Research Unit
Pages 65
Documents Improved Implementation of Regional Fox Management Programs 2010 [1.0 Mb PDF]

PestSmart DVD: Guide to Practical Pest Animal Management

A two-disc DVD set of practical instructions on a range of pest animal control methods, new products and monitoring techniques for land and pest animal managers.

These instructional clips can also be found online at The techniques and products used are relevant to production and biodiversity based vertebrate pest control management programs.

The views expressed within these videos are that of the presenter and not necessarily of the Invasive Animals CRC or its partners. The information contained in these videos is for general information purposes only. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. Please refer to local or State regulations and standard operating procedures before commencing any techniques shown in these DVDs.

Copies of the DVD are also available free of charge (stock permitting) by contacting the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre on email: or  (02) 6201 2887 .

Secondary title PestSmart video
Author Invasive Animals CRC
Year 2012
Publisher Invasive Animals CRC
Links Videos clips from this DVD can be viewed at the PestSmart YouTube Channel

Development of new toxins for wild dog and fox control

YouTube video:

Simon Humphrys is the Commercialisation Manager with the Invasive Animals CRC. In this video, Simon discusses new toxins being developed for wild dog and fox control. This new toxin, PAPP, is being formulated into new baits.

Wild dogs and foxes pose a threat to livestock such as sheep, cattle, goats and poultry. In high density areas they may also be a health risk to humans and pets, through transmission of diseases such as distemper, parvo virus and mange. Evidence suggests red foxes are a primary cause in the decline and extinction of many small and medium-sized rodent and marsupial species in Australia. They also prey on many bird species.



Catalogue of fence designs

This catalogue compiles schematic diagrams and specifications (where available) of fences that have been used to exclude the specified feral animals (foxes, feral cats, feral rabbits, feral goats, feral pigs and dingoes/feral dogs). The catalogue designs were identified either from the reviewed literature or discussions with current managers of exclusion fences in Australia and New Zealand. Note that the diagrams are not drawn to scale and provide only a general depiction of raw materials and construction specifications.

Author Kirstin Long and Alan Robley
Year 2004
Publisher Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research
Department Department of Sustainability and Environment, VIC
Pages 25
Control method Fencing
Region Australia - national
Documents Catalogue of fence designs [1.2 Mb PDF]

Cost Effective Feral Animal Exclusion Fencing for Areas of High Conservation Value in Australia

Introduced feral animals in Australia pose a serious risk to native flora and fauna communities. The Department of the Environment and Heritage recognises in particular the impacts of European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), feral cats (Felis catus), feral goats (Capra hircus), feral pigs (Sus scrofa) and feral rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) as key threatening processes (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) 1999). Exclusion fencing is increasingly being used as a tool to protect areas of high conservation value from the threats posed by vertebrate pest species.

A myriad of fence designs exist for this purposes and there are currently few published guidelines available to advise conservation managers on the factors that need to be considered when assessing exclusion fence designs and when planning a fence’s alignment, construction and maintenance. Coman and McCutchan (1994) conducted a comprehensive review of  fox and feral cat exclusion fencing in Australia. This current document expands on Coman and McCutchan’s report by  updating the available information on fox and cat exclusion fencing and including reviews of fences designed to exclude the other three mentioned species. Given the history of dingo (Canis lupus dingo) exclusion fencing in Australia (McKnight  1969) a review of these fences is also included.

Author Kirstin Long and Alan Robley
Year 2004
Publisher Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research
Department Department of Sustainability and Environment, VIC
Pages 61
ISBN/ISSN ISBN: 0642 549923
Control method Fencing
Region Australia - national
Documents Cost Effective Feral Animal Exclusion Fencing for Areas of High Conservation Value in Australia [1.5 Mb PDF]

Fox inspecting a cow carcass

no images were found

Image shows a fox inspecting a cow carcass, as captured by remote camera. Entered by Adam Sykes in the Invasive Animals CRC’s 2011 Feral Photos photography competition.
This image file may be freely downloaded and used without permission of the copyright holder for educational purposes only. If the image file is to be used for any other purpose other than educational use (including commercial purposes), permission must be obtained directly from the copyright holder.
Click on the thumbnail below to view a larger image.


Reference type Generic
Author Adam Sykes
Secondary Author Invasive Animals CRC
Year 2011
Secondary title Adam-Sykes_Fox-cow.jpg
Edition jpeg

Bounceback — fox control in the Flinders Ranges

Case study of fox control as part of a major conservation program aiming to protect and restore the semi-arid environment in South Australia.

Native plants and animals in the Flinders–Olary and Gawler bioregions of northern South Australia have been adversely affected since European settlement. Impacts from high levels of grazing by domestic stock and other introduced grazers such as rabbits, feral goats and (to a lesser extent) donkeys and camels have been long term.

Excessive grazing pressure has prevented native plant communities from regenerating, allowing exotic plants to colonise and establish. In some areas this has led to fragmentation of ecosystems. Combined with predation by foxes and feral cats, these changes have significantly reduced local fauna, with some species such as the bilby, bettong and hare-wallabies now believed to be extinct. The Bounceback program was developed to protect the area from further damage and to help it recover.


PestSmart: Foxes

Author Invasive Animals CRC
Year 2011
Publisher Invasive Animals CRC
Pages 4
ISBN/ISSN PestSmart code: FXCS3
Control method Baiting
Region SA

PestSmart Case Study: Bounceback - fox control in the Flinders Ranges  [600 kb PDF]


Fox shooting and hunting

In Australia, landowners are permitted to hunt and shoot foxes on their own land provided they are appropriately licenced. Recreational hunters and shooters need to gain permission from private landowners to hunt or shoot on their land. Hunting and shooting on most public lands is prohibited, although in New South Wales regulated hunting is allowed on some designated public lands.
Hunters and shooters must be aware of, and strictly observe all relevant legal requirements and safety guidelines for the use of their weapons. The general use of firearms is covered under individual state or territory legislation. The act of killing a fox is governed by the state or territory’s animal welfare legislation and penalties apply if it is not done in a way that causes the animal as little pain as possible. A code of practice and a standard operating procedure for  the shooting of foxes is available1,2.
“The fox is responsible for the decline of a number of species of native animals and they also prey on newborn lambs”
Shooting as a method of fox control
Shooting is considered an ineffective way of significantly reducing  fox numbers, so is often used in combination with other methods. It  is labour intensive and not as cost efficient as poison (1080) baiting on a broad scale3,4.
Shooting is a very selective method of fox control. It can provide a viable alternative in areas where foxes are bait shy, where 1080 baiting is not feasible, or where baiting is not a preferred option. If  done properly, shooting is one of the most humane ways of  destroying foxes. The humaneness of shooting depends on the:
  • skill, experience and judgement of the shooter
  • animal being clearly visible and within range
  • use of the correct firearm and ammunition
  • shot placement
FXFS2 Diagram
Head shots are preferred over chest shots as they are more likely to cause instant loss of consciousness to the target species. There is a higher risk of only wounding the animal if it is shot in the chest. Shooting at other parts of the body is considered unacceptable. Shooters must be certain that an animal is dead before they target another one. If an animal is wounded, it must be located and dispatched as quickly as possible.
Care must be taken when handling fox carcasses, as they can carry diseases such as hydatidosis and sarcoptic mange that can affect humans and other animals. The use of gloves is recommended and hands should be washed after handling fox carcasses.
Recommended firearms and ammunition for shooting
foxes are:
  • small bore, high velocity, centre-fire rifles fitted with telescopic sight, used with hollow-point or soft-nosed ammunition
  • 12-gauge shotguns with heavy shot sizes of No. 2, SSG, BB or AAA (within a 20- metre distance only).
The accuracy and precision of firearms should be tested
FXFS2 fox
Foxes are mostly active from dusk to dawn, so shooting at night with the aid of a spotlight (at least 100W) is more common than shooting during the day. This is typically done using a 4WD vehicle travelling slowly across the terrain. When foxes are illuminated by a spotlight, they have a bright eye shine ranging from pale yellow in juveniles to golden yellow in adults. Infrared night-vision equipment is sometimes used when spotlighting. Many hunters use lures and whistles that produce an artificial animal distress call, rabbit for example, to entice foxes to within shooting range.
Fox drives
Fox drives or ‘battues’ are conducted during the day and involve unarmed beaters, often with dogs (see below), driving foxes into a line of waiting shooters. Many foxes — including wary adults — can be taken this way. However, this method needs many people participating and only a relatively small area can be covered.
Hunting with dogs
Dogs may be used in hunting to flush out a fox from cover so it can be shot. Dogs should never be used to capture or directly attack foxes. The use of dogs is governed by a state or territory’s animal welfare legislation.
In Victoria and New South Wales, fox hunters who use hounds and horses must be members of approved hunting organisations. The only hounds permitted for this purpose are ‘foxhounds’ identified with a legible ear tattoo and registered with an approved hunting group. There are strict rules governing how hunted foxes should be treated and the animal must be killed humanely.
More information
  1. Sharp T and Saunders G (2005). Model Code of Practice for the Humane Control of Foxes. NSW Department ofPrimary Industries, Orange.
  2. Sharp T and Saunders G (2005). Standard Operating Procedure – Ground Shooting of Foxes (FOX 003). NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange.
  3. McLeod L, Saunders G, McLeod S and Walter M (2007). Effective Implementation of Regional Fox Control Programs. Final Report to the Bureau of Rural Sciences, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra.
  4. Saunders G and McLeod L (2007). Improving Fox Management Strategies in Australia. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, Australia.

PestSmart Factsheet: Fox shooting and hunting (400 kb PDF)


PestSmart: Foxes

Author Invasive Animals CRC
Year 2011
Publisher Invasive Animals CRC
Pages 2 pp
Control method Shooting
Region Australia - national

Coordinated fox shooting program

Case study on a group program of fox shooting in the Milton–Ulladulla region of New South Wales.

This program began in September 2004 in the Milton/Ulladulla region of New South Wales when concerns were raised about the number of foxes in the area. A community meeting of all stakeholders was held to discuss the best approach to managing the fox problem.

The main issues identified were predation of native animals and livestock (particularly shorebirds, poultry and children’s pets), nuisance value in local caravan parks and public parks (raiding of garbage bins), and disease transmission.


PestSmart Case Study: Coordinated fox shooting program (1 Mb PDF)


PestSmart: Foxes

Author Invasive Animals CRC
Year 2011
Publisher Invasive Animals CRC
Pages 4
ISBN/ISSN PestSmart code: FXCS2
Control method Shooting
Region NSW

PestSmart DVD: Introduction to using foot hold traps for the capture of wild dogs and foxes

This DVD is a snapshot of proven tips and techniques from a variety of locations across Australia. With guidance from professional trappers, the DVD will provide you with insight and skills to confidently undertake trapping as part of an integrated control programme.

Containing 2 hours of videos, the DVD also contains helpful information when placed in a PC, including the regulations for the use of foot hold traps from each state.

The DVDs will be available for viewing at natural resource management group and catchment management authority offices throughout the country. The DVDs will be provided free-of-charge at wild dog and fox management field days and trapping training courses conducted by industry, natural resources management groups and state government agencies.

Copies of the DVD are also available free of charge (stock permitting) by contacting the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre on email: or (02) 6201 2887.

Secondary title PestSmart toolkit
Year 2011
Publisher Invasive Animals CRC
Control method Trapping
Region Australia - national

Videos clips from this DVD can be viewed at the PestSmart YouTube Channel

M-44 Ejector Field Trial Updates

The Southern Branch of the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service funded a field trial of M-44 ejector devices using 1080 for wild dog and fox control.

M-44 ejectors are baited, spring-activated devices that propel the contents of a capsule into the mouth of a wild dog or fox as it pulls upwards with sufficient force on a baited lure head. Ejectors have been deployed in the United States by the US
Department of Agriculture since the late 1930’s for the control of coyotes, red and grey foxes, and wild dogs.

This series of updates on the field trial, produced by the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service project team, follows the trial’s progress and results. Following the trial, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) issued
a minor use permit on the 16th of April 2010 authorising the use of M-44 ejectors containing 1080 capsules for wild dog and fox control within restricted areas of NSW and the ACT.

Author NSW Parks and Wildlife Service
Year 2006-2010
Institution NSW Parks and Wildlife Service
Department Southern Branch
Control method Metal ejectors M44
Region NSW

Modelling the distribution of vertebrate pests in New South Wales under climate change

This project, funded by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre on behalf of the New South Wales Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, develops and applies tools to model the distribution and abundance of vertebrate pest species in relation to climatic and biophysical variables. Such models are needed to predict how the distribution of pest species may vary under a changing climate. We assembled a priority list of vertebrate pests affecting biodiversity in New South Wales (NSW) based on reported threats to species, populations and ecological communities. Feral goats, feral cats, red foxes, European rabbits, and feral pigs are the most common recorded threats to ‘endangered’ or ‘vulnerable’ terrestrial species in NSW, affecting 84.5% of threatened species listed.

This report covers these species—as well as cane toads, Indian mynas, starlings, wild dogs and wild deer. It uses quantitative and, where necessary, qualitative species distribution models to predict the distribution and abundance of these species using land manager desk-top surveys undertaken in 2004. Using the 2004 data, the species distribution models generally predicted the ranges of each species extremely well, but performed poorly in identifying areas where animals were considered to be at a high density. This may have resulted in part from data issues, including the effect of having multiple ‘observers’ and the scale of the analyses (5 km x 5 km grids).

These models were then used to predict the distribution and abundance of these pests under 2050 climate forecasts. Climate scenarios for 2050 were generated from four global circulation models (GCMs)—CSIRO, MIROC, ECHO and ECHAM—that performed reasonably well in modelling current Australian climate. As expected under a warmer climate, cane toads, which have tropical origins, are predicted to expand their range considerably (fourfold). Predictions varied more for species with temperate origins. Rabbits are predicted to generally decline in distribution and abundance. Foxes are predicted to increase in density in some areas and decrease in others, with their overall distribution changing little. Feral cats are predicted to have a slight decrease in abundance, but to maintain a similar range.

Author Peter Caley, Philip Tennant and Greg Hood
Date 02/06/2011
Year 2011
Place published Canberra
Publisher Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre
Pages 66 pp
Region NSW

Modelling the distribution of vertebrate pests in New South Wales under climate change (3.1 Mb PDF)


PestSmart Factsheet: Fox Bounties

Bounty systems offer financial incentives to hunt and destroy pest animals.

Bounty systems offer what appears to be a simple solution to pest animal problems by providing financial rewards to reduce pest numbers. However, reviews of past bounty schemes from Australia and around the world show that they are an ineffective form of pest animal control and do not deliver long-term solutions to a widespread pest animal problem.

Problems with fox bounty systems

Bounties do not guarantee a significant reduction in fox damage. The aim of a bounty is to reduce fox population numbers, but this does not  necessarily reduce the damage caused by these pests.

The need for evidence to pay a bounty limits the type of control  techniques used. To collect a bounty, hunters need to present a  nominated body part (such as a scalp, paw or tail), which limits the  control methods to those that allow recovery of the body. This may  mean that potentially more efficient, cost-effective or humane  control tools are not used.

Bounties need considerable supervision, and are subject to fraudulent  practices. Evidence from past bounty schemes has revealed a range  of deceptive and fraudulent behaviours. Fox body parts are often  collected from areas other than the targeted control zone, or  outside the specified time frame and stored for later presentation.  There have also been reports of thefts from collection depots or  other hunters.

Bounty hunters usually have no interest in reducing fox damage; their  aim is to make money with the least amount of effort. Bounty hunters  usually concentrate their effort in areas where they can most easily  collect foxes. But this is not necessarily where foxes are causing significant damage. To improve the success of a fox control program,  those that suffer the fox damage and will benefit from control  should have ownership and be directly involved in the fox  management.

Bounty payments create a source of income that does not guarantee an  increase in control effort or encourage long-term control of the fox  population. The payment of bounties is considered as an ongoing  source of income rather than an incentive to put more effort into  control. Bounty hunters have been shown to be selective in the  individuals they take — harvesting the younger, more naive animals that are often the doomed surplus from each reproductive year  anyway. Similarly, they generally do not hunt beyond a certain  amount of time, so the older, more difficult-to-shoot foxes are often  left behind, ensuring a future breeding stock.

Bounties are often introduced for the wrong reasons. Bounties are often  put in place as a quick fix, ‘seen to be doing something’ response to  political pressure, instead of properly assessing alternative solutions and cost benefits.

When can bounty systems be successful?

There may be some situations where a bounty scheme has potential. There are examples from around the world where bounties have  been used to successfully eradicate small, isolated populations of  pest animals that are established in a relatively small area.  Conditions of these bounties are usually set to limit the number of  participants and the duration and areas of operation. Bounty  payments are limited to the control of individual animals.

As an example, a bounty was used as part of a strategic campaign to  eradicate the coypu (an aquatic rodent) in eastern England. The  bounty payments offered financial incentives during the final stages  of the campaign, to keep trappers motivated to catch the last  difficult individuals and to finish the campaign on time.

Foxes and wild dogs are too numerous and widespread in Australia  for a bounty  payment to have any impact on their population  numbers.

Alternatives to fox bounties

Bounties have been shown to be an ineffective use of Government  funds. The resources of pest control authorities could be better  invested in:

  • development and implementation of regional and community fox management plans
  • extension of information on best-practice techniques and strategies for pest animal management
  • enabling group collaboration and landscape-wide control research and development of more effective tools for fox management.

Further reading
  • Hassall and Associates (1998). Economic Evaluation of the Role of  Bounties in Vertebrate Pest Management. Report prepared for the Bureau of Resource Sciences, Canberra.
  • PestSmart Case Study: Coordinated Group Fox Programs.
  • Saunders G and Braysher M (2005). AWMS Position Statement on Bounties.
  • Saunders G and McLeod L (2007). Improving Fox Management Strategies in Australia. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, Australia.
  • Tomlinson AR (1957). Bonuses for Vermin Control. Vermin Control Conference, Perth, March 1957:15a-15g.
  • Victorian Institute of Animal Science Vertebrate Pest Research
    Department (2003). Evaluation of the 2002/2003 Victorian Fox Bounty Trial. VIASVPRD, Victoria.
  • Wilson B (2007). Use of Bounties For Pest Animal Management.
    Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Queensland.
Author Invasive Animals CRC
Year 2011
Publisher Invasive Animals CRC
Pages 2 pp
Control method Bounties
Region Australia - national

PestSmart Factsheet: Fox Bounties (340kb PDF)


PestSmart: Foxes

Use of Bounties For Pest Animal Management

The purpose of this policy is to identify under what conditions the resources of Biosecurity Queensland may be allocated to the payment of bounties for pest animal management.

Author Bruce Wilson
Date 04/09/2007
Year 2007
Publisher Queensland Government
Department Primary Industries and Fisheries
Pages 4 pp
Control method Shooting
Region QLD
Documents Use of bounties for pest animal management

Coordinated group fox programs

Case study on the effectiveness of using coordinated group programs for fox management on farms.

Produced by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre as part of the PestSmart series.

Author Invasive Animals CRC
Year 2011
Publisher Invasive Animals CRC
Pages 2 pp
Control method 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate)
Region NSW

PestSmart Case Study: coordinated group fox programs (270 kb PDF)


PestSmart Toolkit: Foxes

Number PestSmart code: FXCS1

Effective implementation of regional fox control programs

Final report on a study conducted by the Vertebrate Pest Research Unit (VPRU), NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to determine if there is a relationship between lamb survival and the frequency, timing and spatial coverage of fox-control programs.

The study took advantage of existing agricultural fox-management programs across 4.5 million hectares in regional New South Wales (NSW) to look at their impact on lamb survival. Data was collected from a range of landholders participating in fox-control activities, ranging from no control or isolated individual programs, to control on a larger scale with coordinated groups.

Author McLeod L, Saunders G, McLeod S, and Walter M
Year 2007
Publisher Vertebrate Pest Control Unit
Department NSW Department of Primary Industries
Pages 105 pp
Control method Integrated Pest Management
Region NSW
Documents Effective implementation of regional fox control programs [2.7 Mb PDF)

PestSmart Factsheet: European Red Fox

Biology and Ecology: Although 3 colour morphs (red, silver or black and cross) are generally recognised worldwide, the red morph is most  common in Australia. In general, throat and abdomen are white, lower legs and ears are black and a bushy tail is tipped in white. This animal exhibits a wide geographic and sub-species variation in size, as body length can range from 45 to 90cm, tail length from 30 to 55cm and body mass from 3 to 14kg.

Habitat:  Foxes occur in a variety of habitat types, including arctic  tundra, desert, temperate forests, boreal forests, meadows, grasslands, agricultural and urban environments. They attain their highest densities in human-dominated habitats. Foxes are not found in tropical climates. In other regions of the world they are farmed commercially for their fur, a business that generates millions of dollars a year.

Nutrition:  The red fox is predominantly carnivorous; an opportunistic predator on a variety of species (birds, reptiles, medium and small mammals), but also an effective scavenger, consuming carrion and rubbish, and a range of fruits, vegetables, eggs and insects when they are seasonally available.

Reproduction:  Females are monoestrous with a 1-6 day oestrus cycle. In Australia, breeding occurs between June and October. Litter sizes range from 1 to 12, with average litter sizes being 3 to 6 pups. Litter sizes can increase with higher food availability and with age of females.

Lifecycle stages:  Parturition occurs after a gestation of 51-53 days. Lactation lasts for approximately 5 weeks and weaning occurs gradually. Females can breed before one year of age, however, in areas of high density most yearlings do not produce pups. Red foxes can live up to 9 years, although few individuals live more than 6 years in the wild, with many not surviving beyond 2 years. Dispersal commences in late summer and continues through to the onset of breeding in winter (December to May in Australia). Males disperse further than females and dispersal distances tend to be related to habitat type, usually < 50km, with shorter dispersals (< 10km) in urban fox populations.

Biological & behavioural weaknesses:  Red foxes have few natural predators in Australia, with most mortality occurring because of human activities or drought. Cubs can be vulnerable to birds of prey and dogs, and there is some evidence that local populations can be suppressed by predation from dingoes.

fox_distributionOriginal distribution:  Native to Europe, Asia, North Africa and boreal regions of North America, the red fox has been introduced into Australia and temperate regions of North America. They are now the most widely distributed carnivore in the world.

Current Australian distribution:  Red foxes were introduced into Australia in the 1850s and have spread across 76% of the continent, except the far tropical north. The fox has recently been introduced to Tasmania.

Spread pathways:  The colonisation of the red fox began in Victoria, and then spread north and west. Evidence suggests that the fox spread most rapidly across the inland saltbush and mallee country, and more slowly in the forested ranges near the coast. The rapid spread of foxes in Australia was linked to the spread of the European rabbit, and assisted by deliberate human introductions to new areas.

Economic Impacts:  Red foxes pose a threat to livestock, as they prey on poultry, lambs and kids. The total annual cost of foxes to Australia’s environment and economy is estimated to be $227.5 million. In high density areas they may also be a health risk to humans and pets, through transmission of diseases such as distemper, parvo virus and mange.

Environmental Impacts:  Red foxes are a primary cause in the decline and extinction of many small and medium-sized rodent and marsupial species in Australia. They also prey on many bird species. Of the threatened species listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, foxes are considered a threat to 14 species of birds, 48 mammals, 12 reptiles and 2 amphibians.

Social Impacts:  The main social impacts of red foxes are not direct impacts, but rather flow out of the economic and environmental impacts. However, some direct social impacts can occur. Examples include psychological distress caused by fox predation on household pets, poultry and livestock, and trauma from vehicle accidents. The increasing diversity of rural land use and rural residents may also cause intra-community conflicts.

More information:

Saunders, G., Coman, B., Kinnear, J., and Braysher, M. (1995). Managing Vertebrate Pests: Foxes. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, Australia.

West, P (2008). Assessing invasive animals in Australia 2008. National Land & Water Resources Audit and Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, Canberra.

McLeod, R. (2004). Counting the Cost: Impact of Invasive Animals in Australia, 2004. Cooperative Research Centre for Pest Animal Control, Canberra.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2008). Background document for the threat abatement plan for predation by the European red fox. DEWHA, Canberra.

Fitzgerald, G. and Wilkinson, R. (2009). Assessing the social impact of invasive animals in Australia. Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, Canberra, Australia.

Gong, W., Sinden, J., Braysher, M. & Jones, R. (2009). The economic impacts of vertebrate pests in Australia. Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, Canberra, Australia.

Jones, R., Saunders, G. & Balogh, S. (2006). An economic evaluation of a pest management control program: ‘Outfox the fox’. Economic Research Report No. 29. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange.

Author Invasive Animals CRC
Year 2011
Publisher Invasive Animals CRC
Pages 2 pp
Region Australia - national

PestSmart Factsheet: European Red Fox (340 kb PDF)


PestSmart: Foxes

Could controlling mammalian carnivores lead to mesopredator release of carnivorous reptiles?

Emerging evidence increasingly illustrates the importance of a holistic, rather than taxon-specific, approach to the study of ecological communities. Considerable resources are expended to manage both introduced and native mammalian carnivores to improve conservation outcomes; however, management can result in unforeseen and sometimes catastrophic outcomes. Varanid lizards are likely to be apex- or mesopredators, but being reptiles are rarely considered by managers and researchers when investigating the impacts of mammalian carnivore management. Instances of mesopredator release have been described for Varanus gouldii as a result of fox and cat management in Australia, with cascading effects on faunal community structure. A meta-analysis showing extensive dietary niche overlap between varanids, foxes and cats plus a review of experimental and circumstantial evidence suggests mesopredator release of V. gouldii and about five other medium to large species of varanid lizard is likely in other regions. This highlights the need for managers to adopt a whole-of-community approach when attempting to manage predators for sustained fauna conservation, and that additional research is required to elucidate whether mesopredator release of varanids is a widespread consequence of carnivore management, altering the intended faunal responses.

Secondary title Prodeedings of the Royal Society B
Author Duncan R. Sutherland, Alistair S. Glen and Paul J. de Tores
Date 01/12/2010
Year 2010
Volume Online early
Institution Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre
Department Department of Environment and Conservation, WA
ISBN/ISSN doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.2103