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.
Foxes are highly secretive and cryptic animals. They are wary of humans, highly mobile and occur at relatively low densities across the landscape. These factors make the collection of key biological and ecological data relevant to their control, such as density and survival, challenging. Management decisions are often made without a full understanding of the fox’s biology or behaviour, potentially limiting the effectiveness, and making it difficult to accurately evaluate the success of any management actions.
One response to the problem of how to directly measure the density of such an elusive species is to use a non-invasive survey technique such as an activity index (eg counts of tracks and scats). A major limitation with this method is that without identification of individual animals, and hence some understanding of their behaviour, it is difficult to attribute a change in activity to a change in population density.
“DNA analysis has become a critical addition to the traditional tools for monitoring foxes”
Advances in molecular biology and bioinformatics have permitted the development of the non-invasive analysis of DNA, otherwise known as genetic tagging1. This technology has the ability not only to distinguish between species but also to identify individual animals. Combined with the range of non-invasive survey techniques (eg hair or scat collection), DNA analysis has become a critical addition to the traditional tools for monitoring foxes. The Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IA CRC), in collaboration with the University of Canberra and the University of Western Australia, has been at the forefront of research in this area in Australia. Their most recent program was divided into five main project-elements:
the survey and detection of foxes at low abundance for better targeted baiting and other fox control measures
the monitoring of abundance and survival of foxes subject to lethal control methods
the use of landscape genetics as a tool to estimate dispersal distances of foxes and define optimal management areas
the determination of the relatedness and mainland origins of foxes in Tasmania
the estimation of the number of breeding foxes and immigration rate onto Phillip Island in Victoria.
This factsheet contains a summary of this research program, the techniques developed and how they can inform management decisions.
To be able to apply this new technology to answer any
biological fox management questions, there was a need
to develop accurate methods that are reliable, flexible,
Most DNA-based techniques for species identification usually involve post-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) manipulations of samples (eg restriction digests, gel electrophoresis). These techniques add time and cost to the process, and increase the chance of contamination and handling errors. The team from the IA CRC developed a highly accurate and reliable method for identifying species from DNA samples that did not require post-PCR manipulations. Instead DNA fragments are PCR amplified using a pool of species-specific primers (eg fox, cat, dog, quoll, Tasmanian devil), then identified using melt-curve analysis (MCA) to distinguish species2. These researchers were also able to develop a sexing test using a similar approach3.
Remotely capturing DNA samples
DNA samples can be collected from most parts of the fox body (eg body tissue, blood, hair, faeces). The research team found that faeces were useful for field-based collections as they were relatively long-lasting. Testing several methods of DNA extraction, it was found that the relatively quicker, cheaper method was successful in extracting sufficient DNA for species identification, even after the faeces had been on the ground for up to three months. However, the sexing test was found to be more reliable when faeces were less than three weeks old, and was maximised by the use of a more labour-intensive DNA-extraction process3.
Abundance and survival monitoring in Western Australia
A landscape-scale experiment was conducted in the wheatbelt areas of Western Australia to use DNA analysis to estimate density and survival of foxes during a typical 1080 aerial baiting program. DNA was obtained from hair samples that were collected using hair snares. This analysis of hair samples provided significantly more individual ‘captures’ than conventional trapping methods typically provides, potentially allowing for more accurate and precise evaluations of the effectiveness of control. The results identified 58 unique individuals and demonstrated a 100% knockdown of the resident fox population, indicating the effectiveness of 1080 aerial baiting programs in removing individual foxes1.
This project collected over 3500 fox samples from across Australia. The DNA analysis has demonstrated that foxes from Western Australia are genetically distinct from those in the eastern states, with movement virtually non-existent across the deserts of central Australia.
Foxes in Tasmania
The survey and detection of foxes at low abundance using DNA analysis has proved reliable. It has provided independent evidence for the presence of foxes in Tasmania, and remains an important tool in the eradication program 3,4 (see Foxes in Tasmania factsheet for more detail). So far 18 individual foxes have been successfully identified from faeces, blood and tissue samples found throughout Tasmania. There have been no recaptures of these 18 individuals.
Foxes on Phillip Island
Foxes have been established on Phillip Island for over 100 years, and have a major impact on the populations of native wildlife, particularly breeding colonies of little penguins, Eudyptula minor
(see Phillip Island case study for more details). Despite ongoing intensive control programs, foxes still persist. By using DNA analysis techniques, researchers have been able to measure the rates of increase of the fox population on Phillip Island. This research has shown that reproduction is the main source of population increase, with immigration from the mainland only providing a small contribution. Although fox control was shown to reduce fox densities, there was evidence that the net number of new individuals did not decline because of increased reproductive success5.
These images were entries in the first-ever Invasive Animals CRC’s Feral Photos photography competition held in 2011. The competition was initiated to help improve levels of awareness among members of the community, who have observed the presence of pest animals in their environment. The photos illustrate the significant diversity of pests we have in Australia and entries were received from across each State & Territory.
WARNING: Some people may find some of the following images confronting or distressing.
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.
John Parkes and Dean Anderson
Landcare Research (NZ)
For: Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment 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.
Pathway Import Risk Analysis
Dr Darren Phillips
Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania
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.
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 www.youtube.com/PestSmart. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org or (02) 6201 2887 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 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.