Feral Friday – foxes

03 October 2019

This month MLA is putting the spotlight on invasive animals and the tools available to help manage them. Week four’s feature looks at a common pest animal threat: foxes.

Fast facts

  • European red foxes were introduced into Australia for hunting in the mid-1800s and have spread across 76% of the continent.
  • Of the threatened species listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, foxes are considered a threat to 14 species of birds, 48 mammals, 12 reptiles and 2 amphibians.
  • In 2016, a koala researcher working on the NSW Liverpool Plains inadvertently videoed foxes climbing trees to a height of 4m, apparently in search of prey. It was the first documented evidence that foxes present a threat to Australia’s arboreal species, as well as terrestrial ones.

 Impacts

Foxes prey on lambs, goat kids and poultry – as well as many native species – and are also potential disease carriers. This means foxes present major productivity and biosecurity threats to farm businesses.

  • The overall national wool and sheepmeat production loss cost of foxes is estimated to be $28 million.
  • The cost of controlling foxes is likely to account for a significant portion of the $46 million estimated to be spent by broadacre farmers and livestock producers on vertebrate pests each year.

What can producers do?

As foxes are highly mobile and efficient breeders, one-off or reactionary control programs are ineffective in the long term.

Successful fox management relies on a combination of strategies – such as baiting, shooting and trapping – delivered in a coordinated way.

Working in a pest control group with your neighbours is the best option. Ask your local agriculture or land services department for information about group control programs in your area.

IPM key to avoiding unintended consequences

PestSmart’s Glovebox Guide for Managing Foxes recommends using integrated pest management (IPM) to avoid unintended consequences of fox control.

For example, rabbits are a major food source for foxes. Controlling foxes without also controlling rabbits can lead to an increase in rabbit numbers, which can then allow for a more speedy recovery of the fox population.

Record fox activity in FoxScan

Record and map sightings of foxes, fox damage and control activities in your local area using the FoxScan website or app.

The local data can help you decide where to undertake control and coordinate with your neighbours.

Useful links
PestSmart fox control toolkit: pestsmart.org.au/pest-animal-species/european-fox 

PestSmart’s Glovebox Guide for Managing Foxes

Standard operating procedures for fox control techniques:

FoxScan app and website: feralscan.org.au/foxscan

More information

MLA’s current investment in this area is largely through its support of the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS) to ensure a coordinated, multi-species approach to ethical pest control.

MLA’s prior investment in this area supported specific fox control research projects, including work on aerial and ground baiting rates, studies of ‘spray tunnel’ technology and a collaborative research program led through the Invasive Animals CRC to develop and ultimately commercialise the next-generation PAPP baits.

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