Setting measurable objectives:
Once you have established that you have a fox problem, you need to think about what you want your fox management program to achieve. By setting objective(s), you can measure the success of your program. Good objectives should state what will be achieved where, by when and by whom.
The main objective of any fox management program should be to reduce fox damage. This is best measured by the response of the prey species, and not by the number of dead foxes or baits taken. Structure this objective in terms of reduced damage within a given timeframe, eg I want to improve lamb marking by 10% after 2 years.
Other objectives can include operational factors such as the number of participants, or area covered by a group program. For example: our group wants to increase the participation of landholders to 90% in 2 years.
Develop a plan of action:
Once the problem has been defined, and objectives set, a plan of action is required. Plans should contain what is to be done (in terms of available techniques, approvals required and legal constraints) and who does what, where, when and how often. Foxes can have significant environmental, economic and social impacts, so when considering your fox management plan you must have an understanding of the farming and/or ecological system you are working in.
Fox issues are complicated and cannot be considered in isolation from other property management activities. Foxes share complex relationships with other animals (both predators and prey species) so their control should be just one aspect of an integrated approach to the management of both farming and natural resource systems.
Rabbits are a major food source for foxes. When rabbit numbers are low, fox numbers are also generally low. Controlling foxes without also controlling rabbits can lead to an increase in rabbit numbers, which can then allow a more speedy recovery for the fox population. By decreasing the amount of alternative food available, rabbit control can also increase the effectiveness of fox control programs.
Cats and other predators: Foxes competitively interact with other predators such as feral cats, varanid lizards (eg goannas) and quolls. When foxes are removed through control programs, these other predators can potentially increase in numbers. They could in turn have a greater impact on the prey species in that particular environment. This is referred to as the mesopredator release hypothesis. Emerging evidence supporting this concept highlights the importance of considering the wholesystem when managing foxes, especially for conservation outcomes.
Guides to help develop a fox management plan:
- Glovebox Guide for Managing Foxes - This glovebox guide 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.