The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) has wreaked havoc on mainland Australia?s environment and agricultural production since its introduction in the 1870s. Over the same period Tasmania has remained virtually fox-free, allowing its biodiversity to remain pristine and vibrant. Should foxes ever become established, the impacts on the economic, environmental and social values of Tasmania would be devastating.
Historically there have been sighting reports and other evidence of foxes from Tasmania. However, in 2001 it was reported that foxes may have been systematically introduced to the island. Accumulated evidence also indicates that such an act may have also occurred in 1999 and 2000.
In response to these recent possible incursions, the Tasmanian Government established the Fox Free Taskforce. This body has the responsibility of investigating reports of fox evidence and sightings and of taking appropriate actions, including managing, controlling and monitoring fox introductions and activity, and implementing eradication programs as needed across the State. Since 2001, the Taskforce has received more than 1000 reported sightings of foxes (reports that have varied from poor to excellent in terms of quality) and implemented a baiting campaign covering more than 600,000 ha.
The Fox Free Taskforce and the Tasmanian Government have always been in a difficult position. Foxes found and destroyed in Tasmania mean that the community could judge the Taskforce as having failed to keep the State free of foxes. In contrast, a successful control program and the lack of any clear evidence of foxes (dead or alive) could be judged as a costly effort carried out for no clear benefit.
The Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IA CRC) has a strong interest in
protecting Australia from the impacts of invasive animals including the ravages of fox
predation. It was therefore clearly within its charter to assist Tasmania by providing
the resources to undertake an independent review of the recently reported incursions
of foxes into Tasmania and an analysis of subsequent management actions.
|Author||Saunders, G., Lane, C., Harris, S., and Dickman, C.|
|Publisher||Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre|
|Documents||Foxes in Tasmania [PDF download]|