To develop and produce an instructional DVD to be implemented nationally that will assist stakeholders to become competent and more confident in the use of nationally approved trapping devices for the control of introduced predators primarily the Wild Dog (Canis familiaris), the European Red Fox (red fox)(Vulpes vulpes) and the feral cat (Felis catus).
The DVD produced is intended to be a resource tool that compliments existing extension material which can be disseminated amongst the community via training days conducted by NRM groups, government agencies and industry groups across Australia. The development of this instructional DVD will provide stakeholders with additional skills to control these damaging species as part of an integrated control program utilizing a variety of control techniques in accordance with the National Codes of Practice and Standard Operating Procedures.
The main goal of this project was to evaluate and demonstrate the ability of conventional baiting practices to suppress fox populations. This was to be achieved through the following objectives:
Estimate changes in fox population densities in response to coordinated baiting programs.
Estimate the extent to which individual foxes within populations are exposed to baiting.
Communicate results and implications to public and private land managers through extension networks of partner agencies, as well as scientific and management fora.
The following publication resulted from this work:
Bengsen, A. (2014) Effects of coordinated poison-baiting programs on survival and abundance in two red fox populations. Wildlife Research 41 (3), 194-202, available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR13202
The most common control measures for foxes involve the use of poison baits containing sodium fluoroacetate (1080). The humaneness of 1080 is controversial with respect to its use in the control of carnivores.
The key objective of the project was to demonstrate the field effectiveness of a new method for the management of fox impacts on agriculture. This comprises of a combination of two technologies not previously used including:
A delivery device known as a ‘mechanical ejector’, and
A new selective poison known by the acronym ‘PAPP’ (para-aminopropiophenone), provided as a rapid-acting formulation.
Pictured: Malleefowl on a nesting mound in the study area. Credit: Jason Wishart
Pest management for conservation of endangered Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) populations near Mt Hope, New South Wales
Project description: Mallee Recovery is an Invasive Animals Ltd led Biodiversity fund project that aims to reduce the impacts of invasive species on endangered malleefowl populations near Mount Hope, New South Wales. The project builds directly on early work undertaken by the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority (now Western local Lands Services) and links with predator management being undertaken on adjoining nature reserves.
Mallee Recovery initially focused on several core properties, where the largest tracts of remnant mallee habitat existed. We have now attracted the involvement of all surrounding landholders, which has increased the predator control area to over 500,000 hectares. This essentially provides a buffer around the core mallee habitat, and offers even greater benefits to the areas biodiversity and agriculture.
The project also enables us to use newly developed pest control products such as the HOGHOPPER®, and provides an ideal testing ground for emerging innovations including sodium nitrite feral pig baits and multi-purpose water-point traps for feral pigs and feral goats.
Aerial surveys have revealed over 50 active Malleefowl mounds in the project area and we hope that future aerial surveys will show a stable or increasing breeding population, particularly with the considerable effort that has gone into broad-scale pest control. Our biggest challenge now is securing ongoing funding, so the benefits of everyone’s hard work can be realised and we can see recovery of malleefowl in the area.
Watch: Project Officer, Jason Wishart talks about this important project that also involves local landholders. (Video production by DigitalFarmTV).
Project team: Jason Wishart, Stuart Brown, Simon Humphrys, Paul Meek, David Creeper, Robynne Wells-Budd, Milton Lewis, Michelle Hines, Marc Irvin, Laura Douglas, Jessica Marsh and many private landholders.
Project partners: Invasive Animals Ltd, Western Local Lands Services, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Office of Environment and Heritage.
Wild dogs and working dogs are usually very similar in size and behaviour, and available control tools will affect both. Poisons, traps and ejectors present the highest risks to working dogs.
PAPP and 1080 are toxic to working dogs and some other domestic animals, so these non-target animals are most at risk during wild dog baiting campaigns. The best way to prevent working dogs from being poisoned is to keep them away from any source of poison. This is partly managed by following the label instructions and the usage guidelines for the product, which state that you must inform your neighbours of where and when you plan to use baits, and store and transport baits in appropriate containers.
Working dogs may also get caught in traps set for wild dogs. Dogs captured accidentally are unlikely to suffer major injuries, but they can be ‘foot sore’ for a short time and might not be able to work until they have recovered. Working dogs are also susceptible to poisoning from lethal trap devices where used.
Steps to reduce the risk to your working dog
Know where baits have been laid — distribute baits only in places where working dogs do not visit. Pick up and dispose of any remaining baits once the baiting program is finished.
Muzzle your dogs — muzzling is simple, cheap and does not usually reduce a dog’s work performance. It can prevent your dog from taking a bait, pulling an ejector or chewing a lethal trap device.
Keep your dogs kennelled in pens or tethered on runs while they are not being used for work or play.
Do not take unmuzzled dogs into a baited area for at least 6 months in wet areas and 12 months in dry areas.
Keep your dogs away from dead or dying poisoned animals and any toxic vomit.
Supervise your dog when it is off the lead, and make sure suitable emetics, vets’ telephone numbers and first aid materials are available to help your dog’s chances of survival if poisoning does occur.
Never assume that a bait is safe.
First aid for your working dog
1080 poisoning Once eaten, 1080 is rapidly absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. Once it is in an animal’s circulation, it blocks the chemical reactions that produce energy in cells. Over time, this lack of cell energy prevents organs from functioning properly. Each organ then begins to shut down, causing a variety of visible signs. Signs to look for:
loud vocalising, yelping and howling
failure to respond to owner
uncontrolled urinating and defecating
seizures and fits
coma or unconsciousness.
1080 first aid You need to act immediately to save your poisoned dog. Once signs of 1080 poisoning are apparent, the outlook (even with treatment) is poor and dogs rarely survive. However, if you suspect your dog has ingested 1080 but has not yet begun to show signs:
induce vomiting (to get the bait out)
take your dog to a vet immediately
keep your dog as cool and as quiet as possible
PAPP poisoning Once eaten, PAPP is rapidly absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. Once in the blood, it prevents red blood cells from carrying oxygen and this restricts supply to the heart muscles and brain. Poisoned animals first become lethargic and sleepy before eventually falling unconscious and dying. Even after signs of PAPP poisoning are apparent, the outlook can be good as long as the antidote is administered in time. Signs to look for:
highly increased heart rate
colour changes to tongue, lips, and gums (from pink to blue/grey)
rapidly increasing lethargy, indicated by salivating (dribbling), appearing dazed and wobbly, dragging feet and sitting down, being unable to lift head or move limbs
PAPP first aid You need to act immediately to save your poisoned dog — the sooner, the better. Because the effects of PAPP progress from mild to worse as the poison takes hold, different first aid actions are needed at different stages. Always take your dog to a vet straight away, avoid extremes in temperature, and keep your dog as quiet as possible.
Early stages (conscious)
induce vomiting (to get the bait out)
administer antidote (only available from veterinarians).
Late stages (conscious)
DO NOT induce vomiting (the dog may be too weak to handle the physical energy needed to vomit)
administer antidote (only available from veterinarians).
once antidote has worked induce vomiting.
administer antidote and induce vomiting.
What can I use to make my dog vomit?
Care must be taken when inducing vomiting as your dog may react violently and bite you. Giving too much of some emetics (ie substances that induce vomiting) might also make the dog critically ill. If the dog has vomited, be aware that the vomit is toxic and should be cleaned up immediately. Emetics should be kept in an accessible place (ie the glove box of the ute) in case of poisoning.
Suitable emetics include:
table salt in water: 2 teaspoons of salt in 1 cup of water; less for small dogs, more for larger breeds
washing soda crystals (sodium carbonate): 3–5 crystals orally, DO NOT use laundry detergents or powders
copper sulphate crystals: 2 pea-sized crystals.
If you can’t make your dog vomit, do not waste time trying again, and take your dog to a vet immediately. The vet will need to know:
what the suspected poison is
how long ago your dog was exposed to it
what your dog was exposed to (a bait, carcass or unknown)
how the dog is acting now (clinical signs and symptoms)
how long the signs have been noticeable.
Trapping will rarely leave your dog with any permanent injuries, although they might end up with some hair loss or scarring on their foot. More severe injuries might develop later, depending on how the dog was captured and how long it stayed in the trap. These injuries might include the loss of toe nails, toe/foot pads wearing off, or disfigurement. Housing your dog in a ‘soft’ environment (ie not on concrete or wire) during recovery can help to prevent these later injuries from happening.
Domestic and working dogs will usually yelp and howl to let you know they are caught in a trap. Be aware that dogs may react violently and bite as you get them out of a trap.
To help your dog recover from being trapped:
Get your dog out of the trap as quickly as possible.
If the paw is swollen, gently massage it to increase blood flow.
If the paw has minor cuts or bites, gently clean the paw with water or allow your dog to lick it clean.
If the dog has been caught for a long time, take your dog to a vet.
House the dog on soft surfaces while it recovers.
Talk to your local vet for more information on the treatment of poisoned or injured animals.
With our partners, the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IA CRC) is developing knowledge, products, strategies and services that deliver efficient and humane pest animal control. Since the January 2015 update a number of initiatives have moved through the research & approval process. The Product Status table below highlights this.
Registration of PAPP for wild dog and fox control
The IA CRC, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and Animal Control Technologies (Australia) Pty Ltd (ACTA) have made significant R&D investment to register PAPP (para-aminopropiophenone) as a new pest animal toxin and develop two new bait products containing PAPP for wild dog and fox control.
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) approval process started in 2008. The APVMA accepted the updated chemical active application for full assessment in December 2012. In July 2014 the two product applications for wild dog and fox control were accepted by the APVMA for full assessment. In July 2015 PAPP and products containing PAPP were scheduled as S7 (dangerous poison) by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. This means access will be equivalent to 1080 products.
Approved PAPP products for wild dog and fox control will complement 1080-product use by allowing a choice between different poisons so that baiting programs can be tailored to account for needs and risks. The availability of a Vet delivered antidote will help to reduce risk to non-target animals such as working and pet dogs.
To find out if the PAPP products are available for use in your jurisdiction please visit www.pestsmart.org.au/PAPP or contact the distributor Animal Control Technologies Australia Pty Ltd.
Canid pest ejectors (CPE) for wild dog and fox control
ACTA has registered with the APVMA 1080 capsules for use in canid pest ejectors for wild dog and fox control. State authorities are now ensuring that state regulations facilitate end-user adoption so that wild dog and fox control is enhanced by access to this new tool. The IA CRC and ACTA will register capsules containing PAPP as soon as it is approved as a new pesticide.
Development of HOGGONE (sodium nitrite) for feral pig control
A collaboration between IA CRC, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), ACTA, Connovation (NZ), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) is aiming to deliver a new feral pig control product. Extensive research in Australia and the USA continues so that a stable, effective product that is attractive to feral pigs and less so to non-targets is delivered. Larger scale field trials required for registration in Australia are currently being planned for Spring 2015. The team is working on ways to enhance safety by delivering the product in ways that only pigs can access.
We anticipate that an application to the APVMA in Australia for registration of the HOGGONE product will occur soon. An application to the US EPA to start field trials in the USA is being prepared.
Lethal trap device (LTD)
Soft-jaw trapping is an important tool for wild dog, fox and feral cat management and the development of a humane tool to reduce the distress of trapped animals is a high priority. The IA CRC is currently field trialling a lethal trap device (which will contain PAPP) that can be fixed to all approved traps and humanely and rapidly euthanizes trapped animals as they bite at trap jaws trying to escape. A product registration application will be prepared following these trials.
The tables below outline the current status of products in development and completed. To stay informed, please subscribe to the IA CRC’s Feral Flyer e-newsletter at www.pestsmart.org.au/subscribe/. All product enquiries should be directed to ACTA on 03 9308 9688 (www.animalcontrol.com.au).
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 foxdamage. 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 typeof 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 subjectto 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 reducingfox damage; their aim is to make money with the leastamount 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 doesnot guarantee an increase in control effort or encouragelong-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.
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. feral.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/FoxCS_Coord.pdf
Saunders G and Braysher M (2005). AWMS Position Statement on Bounties. http://www.pestsmart.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/AWMSBounties.pdf
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.
Terrestrial top-predators are expected to regulate and stabilise food webs through their consumptive and non-consumptive effects on sympatric mesopredators and prey. The lethal control of top-predators has therefore been predicted to inhibit top-predator function, generate the release of mesopredators and indirectly harm native fauna through trophic cascade effects. Understanding the outcomes of lethal control on interactions within terrestrial predator guilds is important for zoologists, conservation biologists and wildlife managers. However, few studies have the capacity to test these predictions experimentally, and no such studies have previously been conducted on the eclectic suite of native and exotic, mammalian and reptilian taxa we simultaneously assess. We conducted a series of landscape-scale, multi-year, manipulative experiments at nine sites spanning five ecosystem types across the Australian continental rangelands to investigate the responses of mesopredators (red foxes, feral cats and goannas) to contemporary poison-baiting programs intended to control top-predators (dingoes) for livestock protection.
Result: Short-term behavioural releases of mesopredators were not apparent, and in almost all cases, the three mesopredators we assessed were in similar or greater abundance in unbaited areas relative to baited areas, with mesopredator abundance trends typically either uncorrelated or positively correlated with top-predator abundance trends over time. The exotic mammals and native reptile we assessed responded similarly (poorly) to top-predator population manipulation. This is because poison baits were taken by multiple target and non-target predators and top-predator populations quickly recovered to pre-control levels, thus reducing the overall impact of baiting on top-predators and averting a trophic cascade.
These results are in accord with other predator manipulation experiments conducted worldwide, and suggest that Australian populations of native prey fauna at lower trophic levels are unlikely to be negatively affected by contemporary dingo control practices through the release of mesopredators. We conclude that contemporary lethal control practices used on some top-predator populations do not produce the conditions required to generate positive responses from mesopredators. Functional relationships between sympatric terrestrial predators may not be altered by exposure to spatially and temporally sporadic application of non-selective lethal control.
Frontiers in Zoology
Benjamin L Allen, Lee R Allen, Richard M Engeman and Luke K-P Leung
The effects of lethal control of predators, particularly dingoes and other wild dogs (Canis lupus dingo, C. l. familiaris and C. l. dingo X C. l. familiaris) in Australia, is subject to much controversy and recent debate among ecologists. To devise a framework for understanding and researching predator and prey interactions in response to management of predators, a group of ecologists at the forefront of publication, debate and current research were invited to participate in an expert workshop. The workshop was to pay particular consideration to the expected responses of predators and prey following lethal control of predators, such as wild dogs, European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and feral cats (Felis catus), at World Heritage sites.
A group of experts were invited to participate in a facilitated discussion of predator and prey responses to lethal control of wild dogs, foxes and feral cats. This workshop differed from previous ones about dingoes, biodiversity and required research held in Australia during the last 10years in that it concentrated on determining the expected trophic responses to lethal predator control. Invitees were selected primarily on the basis of their active involvement in research dealing with predator and/or prey ecology and secondarily to provide a breadth of experience across a range of WHAs and similar ecosystems.
Participants and observers were given the opportunity to review these proceedings but the editors take final responsibility for the content.
Trophic Responses to Lethal Control of Placental Predators in Australia: Expert Workshop
This glovebox guide is part of the PestSmart Toolkit for Foxes, produced by the Invasive Animals CRC. It is designed to provide current information on best practice fox management for land managers, pest animal officers and others involved in the management of foxes.
This includes general information on:
developing a fox management plan
identifying fox impacts
management strategies & techniques
The advice provided in this publication is intended as a source of information only. Always read the label before using any of the products mentioned. It is important that the information provided is adapted by each individual in accordance with their own environmental, financial and social circumstances.
Poison baiting is currently the most effective broad-scale method of fox control. Toxins used against foxes in Australia must be registered with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). Baits can only be obtained through licensed officers or designated government agencies in each state and territory, and there are strict guidelines relating to the use and placement of baits. Some states require specific chemical training to have been completed, so it is advisable to check specific requirements with your local agency.
Ground baiting is the main technique used. This involves burying baits along tracks, fence lines and other areas where foxes are known to travel. In remote, sparsely populated areas, government agencies are permitted to use aerial application of baits.
How specific are baits for foxes?
Baits target foxes over other species in three ways:
through the toxin
through the bait substrate
by bait presentation
Foxes are particularly sensitive to 1080 (sodium mono-fluoroacetate), the most commonly used toxin, and the newly developed PAPP (para-aminopropiophenone, not commercially available at time of printing). This allows a low dose rate to be used for these baits, making them more specific for foxes and less harmful to non-target species. Red meat, chicken and commercially developed baits, such as Foxoff® (Animal Control Technologies), De-Fox™ (Paks National Pty Ltd) and Pro-bait (Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation), are sometimes preferred because of their palatability to foxes and relatively high target specificity. The practice of burying baits also helps target foxes: the fox readily digs and consumes buried food items, but few native animals are inclined to excavate and eat buried baits.
When is the best time to bait? The most effective time to bait is usually during late winter and spring when fox populations are at their lowest. This is generally just before breeding and is directly followed by a time of high food demand, when the young cubs are being reared. At other times, especially in autumn, foxes are more mobile and tend to re-establish quickly into vacant territories. Baiting may need to be repeated more often at these times to achieve effective results.
How often should I bait? Baiting programs have been shown to be most effective when done twice a year. This causes maximum disruption to both the breeding (late winter/spring) and migration (autumn) stages of the fox’s life cycle.
How should the baiting be done? For maximum success, baits should be available to foxes for at least ten days. They should be checked at least every two days, and replaced until no more are being taken. Baits shouldbe placed at strategic points along tracks and fence lines where foxes regularly travel, or near carcasses or
other attractants, allowing for distance restrictions from residences and boundaries.
Baits should be buried 5—10 cm deep or tethered (in Queensland and Western Australia only), at 200-500 m intervals, with a total of about five baits laid for each square kilometre. The positions of baits should be marked with tape or pegs so they can be easily checked later. Lures and scents can be used to attract the foxes, although continuous scent trails should be avoided.
Is baiting with a group worthwhile? Yes. Group baiting programs, involving cooperation among neighbouring landholders and the community, can both lower the costs of baiting and help reduce the level and speed of fox reinvasion.
How much does a baiting program cost? The cost of a program will vary depending on the size of the property, the number of foxes, and the number of neighbours participating. Costs generally range from $0.40 to $1.00 per hectare. Your local agency should be able to provide advice on the most cost-effective way to bait foxes in your area.
How do I know if the baiting has worked? Dead foxes are seldom found after a baiting program, giving the false impression that the program was not effective. If correct baiting procedures are followed, the number of baits taken can give an indication of the number of foxes killed. Fox population monitoring techniques (eg remote sensing cameras, sand pads, spotlight counts) can be used, monitoring changes in the population of prey species (eg wildlife, lambs) will give a better indication of the program’s success.
Foxes are known to store their food for later. Will this affect my baiting program? Foxes are known to cache surplus food to secure a meal when food is scarce. This behaviour can have a major effect on the effectiveness of a baiting program by decreasing the number of available baits. This behaviour also increases the poisoning risk to non-target species, since the location of baits becomes unknown after they are moved by foxes. The best way to deal with this problem is to take note of multiple bait takes in one location and, if caching is suspected, stop replacing the baits in that spot.
Are fox baits safe for the environment? Both 1080 and PAPP are considered environmentally safe, as they break down relatively quickly, and are neither mobile nor persistent in the soil.
Does fox baiting pose a risk to native animals? Following best practice baiting methods is important to maximise the effectiveness of any baiting program and minimise the risk posed to non-target animals, regardless of which type of bait is used. Burying the baits helps eliminate the risk to most non-target species, including birds. Baits should not be laid in areas where native predators, such as goannas and quolls, are known to be active. If in doubt, the area should be monitored before baiting, using non-toxic baits and sand
pads or remote sensing cameras.
Why do I need to collect uneaten baits at the end my program? Baits and toxins decay over time so the potential exists for foxes to consume sub-lethal doses. Bait aversion results when a sub-lethal dose of toxin is consumed, making the fox ill instead of killing it. Removing all uneaten baits at the end of a program is important to reduce the risk of bait aversion as well as to prevent poisoning of non-target species.
How can I protect my pets? The best way to protect pets is to make sure they do not have access to areas where baits are stored or laid. Domestic dogs are just as susceptible to baits as foxes, so they need to be restrained both during a baiting program and in the weeks directly following it.
PestSmart Factsheet: Frequently asked questions about PAPP
(WDFS7, 2013). Invasive Animals CRC.
Invasive Animals Ltd has taken care to validate the accuracy of the information at the date of publication [June 2013]. This information has been prepared with care but it is provided “as is”, without warranty of any kind, to the extent permitted by law.
Soft net traps consist of a flexible metal frame and netting and/or bag which collapses over the animal when triggered. Soft net traps rely on entanglement to secure and hold the targeted animal, potentially reducing the risk of injury. Soft net traps are used to trap feral and nuisance domestic cats and dogs, foxes, birds and rabbits as well as native animals such as small wallabies, bandicoots and possums. Although soft net trapping is considered an ineffective tool for control of large populations, it may be useful in urban/residential or where numbers have already been reduced and individual animals need to be targeted.
This standard operating procedure (SOP) is a guide only; it does not replace or override the legislation that applies in the relevant state or territory jurisdiction. The SOP should only be used subject to the applicable legal requirements (including OH&S) operating in the relevant jurisdiction. Please note that this is a generic guideline for the use of soft net traps, further detailed information on specific species can be found in the relevant SOPs on trapping.
The northern Sydney region features a substantial area of interconnecting bushland reserves and parks, which host a diverse range of native animal species and an increasing population of pest animals. Fauna surveys done in the area suggest that predation by foxes is a major cause of the decline in some species of native animals. Fox control programs using box traps have been attempted in the past but have been limited in their success. Shooting and baiting with 1080 were not able to be done as they posed safety risks to the general public and pets, and their application was restricted.
Case study on a cooperative fox control program conducted across urban areas in New South Wales. Produced by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre as part of the PestSmart series.
This program is part of an integrated approach to pest animal control centred on the Goonoo National Park and Goonoo State Conservation Area (SCA) (formerly Goonoo State Forest, total area 63,000 ha), situated 35 km northeast of Dubbo in central western New South Wales. The Goonoo forest contains representative species of the Pilliga woodland, such as narrow-leafed ironbark, white and black cypress and mallee. The surrounding area is privately owned agricultural land, supporting a mixture of grazing and cropping enterprises. There are also a number of smaller nature reserves and state forests in the vicinity (eg Coolbaggie Nature Reserve and Lincoln State Forest).
Case study on the effectiveness of a group fox baiting program on land surrounding the Goonoo State Conservation Area of New South Wales. Produced by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre as part of the PestSmart series.
Current fox management strategies and techniques are governed or affected by various Commonwealth, state and territory laws.
Fox predation as a key threatening process
The Australian Government (under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) and some state governments (New South Wales, Victoria) have proclaimed fox predation as a key threatening process. This has implications for the Commonwealth and relevant state conservation agencies that must each prepare and implement a fox threat abatement plan (TAP) across their jurisdiction. The proclamation does not affect the legal obligations of private landholders.
“There are problems associated with the legal declaration of foxes as pest animals if it is not enforced”
Fox management legislation
Fox management on private and public lands other than those controlled by conservation agencies are governed by various
state and territory legislation, listed below.
Australian Capital Territory: Foxes are a declared pest under the Pest Plant and Animal Act 2005and must be managed according to a developed pest management plan. It is an offence to keep, supply or release foxes.
New South Wales: As foxes are not a declared pest under the Rural Lands Protection Act 1998, there is no legal obligation for land managers to control them. Foxes may be kept in captivity, but it is an offence under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 to release them. Foxes are listed as a game animal under the Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002 and regulated hunting of foxes is permitted on some
Northern Territory: Foxes are a declared feral animal under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1998, but they need only be controlled in declared pest control areas. No areas are currently declared. It is an offence to release foxes.
Queensland: Foxes are a declared pest under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002. Land managers must take reasonable steps to keep their land free of foxes. It is an offence to feed, keep, introduce, release or supply foxes without a declared pest permit.
South Australia: Under the Natural Resources Management Act 2004, foxes are a declared animal and must remain controlled on all lands. It is an offence to keep, move, sell or release foxes.
Tasmania: Foxes are declared vermin under the Vermin Control Act 2000 and restricted animals under the Nature Conservation Act 2002. Landholders may be required to ‘suppress and destroy’ any fox found on their property. It is an offence to import, keep, carry or release foxes. The Animal Health Act 1995 restricts the importation of fox carcasses, faeces, salted, dried, frozen or untanned skins and any untanned fox parts including tails.
Victoria: Foxes are a declared established pest animal under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994. Land owners (public and private) must take all reasonable steps to prevent the spread of foxes, and eradicate them where possible. It is an offence to bring foxes into Victoria, or keep, sell or release them without a permit.
Western Australia: Foxes are a declared pest under the Agriculture and Related Resources Protection Act 1976. However, this Act will soon be superseded by the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007. All land managers (public and private) must make reasonable endeavours to reduce and control foxes. It is an offence to release foxes.
Implications of fox management legislation
There are problems associated with the legal declaration of foxes as pest animals if it is not enforced. In those states where foxes are declared, enforcement is uncommon, leaving fox management in Australia largely a voluntary activity. Problems include:
Criteria for assessment — foxes are cryptic animals and extremely difficult to count. How do you assess that a particular area of land officially has a fox ‘problem’, and what level of impact is regarded as problematic?
Fox ecology — foxes are highly mobile and can rapidly move into new areas. So who has ownership of the pest problem?
Control techniques — 1080 baiting is the only practical broadscale and cost-efficient fox control technique, but is restricted in its use and appeal. Shooting has been shown to be less effective at a landscape scale, and trapping is limited to small areas.
Fox control techniques Each fox control technique is governed by legislation within each state or territory. Each technique is also generally covered by a code of practice, written in accordance with animal welfare legislation.
Pesticide use: All pesticides possessed, sold, supplied or intended for use in Australia must be registered. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), which administers the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994, is responsible for registering pesticides and issuing permits for off-
label use. An off-label permit may be issued to use a pesticide contrary to its registered use, or to use an unregistered pesticide.
1080: The most common toxicant used against foxes is 1080, a restricted chemical and a Schedule 7 poison. 1080 requires special precautions in manufacture, handling, storage and use, and has special regulations regarding labelling and availability.
Each state has its own legislation controlling the supply and use of 1080 (Table 1). However, there are many similarities, such as the requirement that only authorised personnel can prepare and supply 1080 baits to land managers who must comply with a range of conditions (chemical use training, bait application, distance restrictions, notifications of neighbours and display of warning signs).
Para-aminopropiophenone (PAPP) is being investigated as an alternate fox toxin, but is not yet registered for general use in Australia.
Strychnine has been phased out in most states, although it can still be used on traps in Queensland, if they cannot be checked daily.
Cyanide is not a registered vertebrate pesticide in any state in Australia, but limited-use permits may be obtained for research purposes.
Trapping: The trapping of foxes is governed by animal welfare legislation in each state and territory. Steel-jaw leg-hold traps (toothed and/or without padding) are prohibited for foxes across Australia, although some states allow modified and padded (soft-jaw) leg-hold traps to be used (Table 2).
Shooting: Landowners are permitted to hunt and kill foxes on their own land. A recreational shooter needs to get permission from the landowner before shooting on private lands. Shooting on most public lands is prohibited. In New South Wales, foxes are listed as a game animal under the Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002 and regulated hunting is permitted on designated public lands.
The general use of firearms is covered under individual state legislation. A code of practice for fox shooting has been approved by the federal and state governments. Animal welfare legislation may apply if foxes are not shot as humanely as possible.
Hunting with dogs: Dogs may be used to flush a fox out from cover so it can be shot. This 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 to be used for this purpose are ‘foxhounds’ identified with a legible ear tattoo and registered with a hunting organisation approved by the Bureau of Animal Welfare. Foxes hunted using foxhounds and horses should not be headed or
deliberately diverted for the purpose of prolonging the hunt. Once a fox has gone to ground it should not be pursued again on that hunt. A humane means of killing the animal must be available if it is needed.
Foxes pose a significant threat to Tasmania’s biodiversity and agricultural sector. The potential cost of an established fox population has been estimated at over $20 million annually, with more than 70 native species, including 12 species already listed as threatened and 34 with locally restricted ranges, at risk of predation or competition.
Despite historical records indicating that a number of introductions have been attempted since the 1860s, foxes do not appear to have become firmly established in the Tasmanian landscape. However, reported sightings of foxes in Tasmania have increased since the 1990s. Combined with allegations of deliberate importation of foxes and the discovery of a number of carcasses and other physical evidence, this led to the formation of the Tasmanian Fox Free Taskforce (FFT) in 2001, evolving into the Fox Eradication Program (FEP) in 2006. The FEP is believed to be one of the largest invasive species eradication programs ever attempted in the world.
“DNA analysis has become a critical addition to the traditional tools for monitoring foxes”
Evidence of foxes in Tasmania
Evidence of the presence of foxes in Tasmania has been subjected to sustained public debate, with some in the community disputing the authenticity and relevance of the carcasses, scats and other evidence collected. Between 1998 and 2012, four carcasses, 61 scats containing fox DNA, and almost 3000 public reports of fox activity were collected, as well as a small quantity of other physical evidence such as blood. Figure 1 shows the distribution of the physical evidence, which indicates the presence of foxes in most agricultural landscapes with fragmented vegetation cover in the state.
Scats are independently tested at the University of Canberra’s Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) to identify the presence of fox DNA, which confirms that a scat is from a fox as opposed to another carnivore. A ‘Strategic Scat Survey’ conducted between 2008 and 2010 in conjunction with the IAE and the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre provided valuable data about the extent of the fox population in Tasmania, although many questions remain about the behaviour of foxes in what is presumed to be a low-density environment. Efforts to identify individual foxes via genotyping have successfully analysed 16 samples to date.
The issue of evidence of foxes in Tasmania is contentious in some sectors with a degree of scepticism displayed by some individuals of the threat from foxes and the need for the program. The need to continually explain the existence and significance of the evidence is critical to maintain public understanding of the threat.
Fox Free Taskforce
The FFT was established in 2001 to mount the initial response to increased evidence of foxes in Tasmania. Efforts focused on responding to public sightings of foxes and other fox evidence, reported via a 24-hour hotline, with 1080 baiting and trapping done at a local district level where evidence was discovered.
Fox Eradication Program
In 2006, increased resources from the Tasmanian and Australian Governments and a new 10-year commitment to fox eradication led to establishment of the FEP. Three years later, an independent review of the FEP identified that — given the widespread distribution of physical evidence of foxes — the ‘reactionary’ strategy of the FEP needed to change, with foxes now assumed to be in areas identified as optimal or ‘core fox habitat’, and increased post-bait monitoring.
The FEP now operates using three phases of activity, working progressively across the state. In the first phase, community engagement activities are held to raise awareness and begin the process of seeking consent to enter properties for baiting and monitoring. In the second phase, 1080 baiting (using 3 mg of 1080 in a manufactured meat bait buried at strategic locations) is done in the area, with untaken baits removed after 14–28 days to monitor the rate of bait uptake and minimise any potential risks of toxin residues. In the final phase, post-bait monitoring is done mostly using trained detection dogs to determine if there are surviving foxes or re-invaders in the area.
There are six main elements of the current program:
Strategic baiting: implementing precautionary baiting in all areas modelled as likely core fox habitat.
Post-bait monitoring: using a range of monitoring techniques to enable an area to be deemed ‘fox-free’, or to detect survivors and initiate a lethal control response.
Community engagement: raising awareness among, and gaining cooperation from, key stakeholders in the community.
Research: developing and delivering projects that support the eradication effort.
Biosecurity: minimising the possibility of new incursions.
Program management: managing the program’s projects and activities.
A steering committee of representatives from relevant government agencies and funding bodies oversees the program, with panels of scientific experts and key stakeholders to advise the FEP.
Countering misinformation and low levels of interest in the program that limit access to land and support for the program in general.
Detecting low-density populations of foxes, and understanding potential fox behaviours in that environment.
Managing the scale of the program including the number of properties, amount of data, and the terrain and climate involved.
The benefits of the success of this program will be considerable for Tasmania, and worth the continued effort to overcome the challenges. It is important for the program design to remain science-based, and actions are followed through to completion to ensure foxes do not become established in Tasmania.
Barrier or exclusion fencing is a non-lethal method commonly used to prevent fox attacks on domestic livestock and threatened wildlife species. Although fences are commonly used to protect livestock (eg poultry) from fox predation on a small backyard scale, they have only recently been used on a larger scale in Australia. This has mainly been in response to the need to protect threatened wildlife species and the availability of electric fencing materials.
Fencing can be effective, but the barrier is not absolute. A monitoring system and a management plan need to be in place to rapidly detect and control any breaches. Surplus killing (where they kill more than they can eat) by foxes that manage to breach a fence protecting endangered species can be catastrophic. Additional fox control in a buffer zone outside the enclosure can make fencing much more effective.
“Fencing can be effective, but the barrier is not absolute”
There are a range of fence designs that have been developed to exclude foxes. Choosing the best design depends on:
which species are to be protected
the area to be covered
whether other pests are also to be excluded (eg rabbits)
the presence of non-target animals
maintenance resources and budget.
Features of the local environment also need to be considered, such as the topography, substrate (soil, rock etc), vegetation density, climatic conditions and geographical location.
Most fence designs are composites containing wire netting and electric wires. Wire netting (40—50 mm diameter hexagonal) stops foxes pushing through the base of the fence (30 mm diameter is needed if rabbits are to be excluded as well). Electric wires are used as added deterrents, although they are generally ineffective by themselves. Placement and spacing of wires can vary (see diagrams).
Foxes are excellent diggers, so the wire netting should be either buried at least 450 mm underground or attached to a concrete or wooden floor (in the case of a small pen). Alternatively, an apron of netting angled outwards across the ground for 300—600 mm at the base of the fence is also effective. These aprons need to be secured with weights or pegs in areas of soft substrate or water courses.
Foxes are also excellent jumpers and climbers. They can jump a standard 900 mm fence; so many designs double this height (1800 mm) using more netting or various spacings of electric wires. However, this naturally increases the cost of the fence. Standard-height fences are often used when the area can tolerate occasional fox incursions and the cost needs to be minimised.
An outward-facing overhang can also prevent animals scaling the fence. These overhangs can be floppy or rigid and incorporate electric wires as added deterrents. In smaller pens, a complete wire netting roof is also an option.
Posts and corners are often targeted by foxes and should be given special consideration. Steel posts are
more difficult than timber ones for an animal to climb. Extra netting should be added at corners to discourage climbing. Weak points in netting and joins should be strengthened to prevent foxes from forcing their way through. Wire needs to be thicker than 0.9 mm, as foxes can chew through this gauge.
Livestock guardian dogs are medium to large sized dogs that are kept with livestock to protect them from predators. In Australia they are mainly used to protect sheep, goats and poultry, but they can work with any type of livestock; for example, with cattle, horses, rabbits, deer, emu or ostriches. These dogs live permanently with ‘their’ stock, and regard them as their social companions, protecting them from anything that they see as a threat. In Australia, livestock guardian dogs are mainly used to protect against dingoes, feral dogs and foxes, but also against birds of prey, cats, goannas, crows, quolls and Tasmanian devils.
The information contained in this manual has been collated from a range of producers, breeders and owners of livestock guardian dogs and should provide the basis to successfully employ these animals in a range of environments and grazing situations. It should also make prospective owners of livestock guardian dogs aware that there is a level of commitment required for training and management to make them work effectively as part of your business just as is the case with any other working dog.
In New South Wales the declaration of an animal as a pest under the Rural Lands Protection Act 1998 places a legal obligation on land managers to implement pest management programs. Currently, the fox is not a declared pest in this state, so participation in fox management programs is voluntary. Foxes are declared pests in most other states and territories in Australia. At their annual meeting in 2005, the NSW Rural Lands Protection Board (now Livestock Health and Pest Authority; LHPA) State Council proposed that the official declaration of foxes should be explored. In a 2007 survey of land managers, three quarters of 400 respondents supported the idea that the fox should be a declared pest in New South Wales.
Case study on the usefulness of legislative powers to improve fox management. Produced by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre as part of the PestSmart series.
Fox predation is considered the greatest land-based threat to the long-term viability of the penguin colonies on Phillip Island, one of Victoria’s leading tourist attractions. Regular fox control for 20 years up to 2006 had reduced the fox population, but penguins continued to be preyed upon. It was decided that an eradication program should be put in place, before penguin losses and escalating costs of fox control threatened the tourism industry and its benefits to the local and state economy. The eradication program began in 2006.
Case study on the current attempt to eradicate foxes from Phillip Island off the Victorian coast. Produced by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre as part of the PestSmart series.