Threats Posed by Foxes in Tasmania
How would foxes impact on Tasmania’s wildlife?
How would foxes impact on Tasmania’s agriculture and horticulture?
How would foxes impact on domestic animals?
What diseases do foxes carry and spread?
What impact would foxes have on other Tasmanian Industries?
The European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is an efficient and extremely adaptable predator, and is listed as a national threat in the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act 1992. Although primarily a carnivore (meat eater), the fox will also eat insects and fruit when preferred prey is scarce. A variable diet allows the fox to survive in a wide range of habitats, including urban, alpine and arid (desert) areas, and has been a very successful coloniser of the Australian continent.
Foxes were released in Victoria in 1871 for recreational hunting. They were found in Queensland by 1907 and Western Australia by 1912.
Foxes are now widespread throughout mainland Australia (outside the tropics) and it is estimated that they have spread across 76% of the continent. The rapid spread of foxes in Australia was linked to the spread of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and assisted by deliberate human introductions to new areas.
The help of a watchful community is vital to ensure success in eradicating foxes from Tasmania. All members of the public are asked to remain vigilant for foxes, particularly at night when foxes are most active, and to report all fox sightings or any possible evidence of fox activity to 1300 FOX OUT (1300 369 688)
! Rural landowners are encouraged to assist the Fox Eradication Program by watching out for foxes, fox dens, prints and unusual animal kills on their properties. Please remember, if you shoot a fox, or find a dead fox, do not move the body but rather contact the Fox Hotline immediately so that the carcass can be properly examined in situ before being removed for further analysis. Please do not approach suspected dens, as they may have multiple exits and any foxes present could detect your presence and escape.
Further information for landowners.
! Recreational and professional hunters are asked to be vigilant for foxes whilst hunting. Should a fox be encountered we recommend that the animal is shot if a kill can be achieved and it is safe to do so. Foxes are classified as vermin in Tasmania and no special permits are required to shoot them (other than a current Tasmanian Firearms Licence). Please report any fox kills to the Fox Hotline so that the carcass and surrounding area can be investigated.
Further information for hunters.
In the past, devils have probably been playing a role as a 'buffer' species for any foxes that have entered or been introduced into the state, providing competition that prevented their establishment. However, the population decline of the Tasmanian devil, as a result of the Devil Facial Tumour Disease, partly removes this barrier and makes our efforts at eradication and the prevention of further incursions even more vital.
If foxes fill the void created by lower devil numbers, it could prevent the Tasmanian devil from re-establishing, should the disease be eliminated.
Should foxes become established in Tasmania, over 70 native vertebrate species would be at risk. Of these, 34 species have locally restricted ranges, 16 are suspected to be already declining in distribution and 12 species are threatened according to Commonwealth or State threatened species legislation. It is quite possible that at least 5 species will be driven to extinction. Numerous invertebrate species are also at risk.
Locally widespread species like ducks, shorebirds, ground nesting birds, blue tongue lizards, mountain dragons, skinks, frogs, little penguin and platypus are also at risk.
The flow-on effects through food chains and ecosystem balance must also be considered an unknown factor should foxes establish in the state.
Horticultural enterprises, such as vineyards and orchards, may experience loss of fruit to foxes, either from fruit eaten directly, or through damage to, for example, grape bunches, which are then unsaleable. Foxes also have an unusual habit of chewing on irrigation emitters such as plastic drippers, and can potentially destroy thousands of dollars of irrigation infrastructure.
Surplus killings will sometimes occur in enclosed spaces such as chicken coops, with discarded feathers and headless bodies usually being an indicator of fox predation. Foxes are also noted for caching (burying) surplus food and carrying small carcasses (dead bodies of animals) back to their dens to feed their young.
In Europe, the fox is a major carrier of rabies. Should rabies ever be introduced into Australia, foxes would play a key role in its spread and make eradication of the disease very difficult.
Contact: Invasive Species EnquiriesInvasive Species Branch
171 Westbury Road
PROSPECT TAS 7250
Phone: 03 6336 5320
Fax: 03 6336 5453
Media enquiries should be directed to 03 6233 6340.
Tasmania Online | Service Tasmania
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