EUROPEAN RED FOX (Vulpes vulpes)
The European Red Fox is an efficient, opportunistic predator with few natural enemies in Western Australia.
Foxes can adapt to most locations, including residential, commercial, peri-urban, industrial, rural, and bush areas. They are an opportunistic omnivore and can thrive on live prey and by scavenging carrion, insects, worms, amphibians, fruits and berries, compost heaps, dog bowls, domestic and commercial rubbish and waste, stock and other animal feed. Urban residential and commercial areas often provide excellent habitat and can support very high populations.
Foxes are a threat to agriculture, the environment and human health and wellbeing.
They prey on commercial and domestic poultry, newborn lambs and goat kids, often killing and mauling big numbers.
They predate on small and medium sized native marsupials, reptiles, amphibians, eggs of freshwater turtles, birds, (especially ground nesters) causing specie decline and extinctions. They have the capacity to spread weeds with seeds (such as Cleavers) attaching to their coats and animals sheltering in Blackberry thickets spread seed through eating the berries.
Foxes can pose a health risk to humans and their pets. Foxes are believed to play a role in maintaining reservoirs of diseases harmful to wildlife and domestic animals such as mange, distemper, parvovirus, canine hepatitis and heartworm and are carriers of hydatid worms.
The fox is the main vector and reservoir host of rabies in Europe, and if rabies makes its way into Australia, the fox will be a dangerous vector.
Foxes can quickly move into new territory where animals have been removed, so isolated, controls make little impact.
Rabbits are also an easy food source for foxes, so control of feral rabbits can assist fox management. Because reducing rabbit populations can prompt foxes to increase predation of native wildlife, control of both rabbits and foxes should be simultaneous.
1080 baiting on a landscape scale is the most effective control for foxes, but there is often resistance from farmers to bait through concerns for off target species, particularly working and domestic dogs. If baits get wet, they deteriorate and can deliver a sub lethal dose which will make a fox ill and then forever bait shy.
The new Canid Pest Ejector (see attached PDF) overcomes some of these problems.
Fox control in urban areas is difficult because baiting is neither legal nor appropriate for use close to residents and domestic animals.
Urban and peri-urban landholders very often do not have the knowledge, capacity or will to control foxes themselves on their properties. However, their ongoing harbour undermines control efforts elsewhere in the landscape. The removal of easy food and shelter, combined with ongoing active control will put pressure on foxes and reduce numbers and impacts. Blackwood Biosecurity Inc’s 2020 Plan makes provision to assist urban landholders with supply and setting of traps and euthanasia of captured animals.
Eradication of foxes is not possible in the south west in the foreseeable future, but a coordinated, whole of community landscape approach and integrated management, can lead to significant reduction in their impacts.
A feral animal (from the Latin fera: “a wild beast”) is an animal living in the wild, but descended from non-native introduced domestic individuals and has the potential to disrupt ecosystems and cause the extinction of native species.
Source: J. Dearle (DPIRD)