Frequently Asked Questions about the Fox Eradication EffortThe following are the most frequently asked questions about the fox eradication effort in Tasmania. Further information about these questions is available from other pages on the Invasive Species Branch website and from factsheets on our Publications and Information Resources webpage.
Frequently Asked Questions:
For further Frequently Asked Questions about foxes, visit www.feral.org.au
Q. How many foxes are in Tasmania?
A. There is no way of knowing how many foxes are in Tasmania at the present time. What is known is that a volume of physical evidence has been collected (including carcasses, scats, blood, footprints and a skull) indicating that a small number of foxes, both male and female, have been present in Tasmania over the past ten years.
The physical evidence of fox activity has been supported by a significant number of fox activity reports received from members of the public.
Q. If foxes are here, why aren’t people seeing them?
A. A wide range of people have reported seeing foxes in Tasmania, including hunters, farmers, landowners, wildlife experts, tourists and general members of the public. The Invasive Species Hotline currently receives around four calls per week from people who are reporting fox sightings or possible evidence of fox activity. Over 3 300 hotline reports have been received since 2002 (as at 31 Oct 2013).
Q. When was the last evidence of fox activity collected?
A. No evidence of fox activity has been collected in Tasmania since July 2011, which is encouraging that fox eradication will be achieved in Tasmania. However, detecting foxes when they are in low numbers is very difficult and it is important that we remain alert for foxes and signs of their activity.
Q. Do I have to allow fox baiting on my property?
A. No. Participation in a fox baiting program is voluntary. However, all landowners are encouraged to support fox baiting programs as they have been designed to ensure that we have the greatest chance of exposing foxes in the landscape to lethal baits. If there are holes in the fox baiting programs, then they will be less effective and may result in foxes avoiding exposure to lethal baits.
Q. What is core fox habitat?
A. Core fox habitat is a term given to the most highly suitable habitat in Tasmania for foxes and it is considered to be the habitat that would first be occupied by foxes during an establishment phase. Core fox habitat is predominantly made up of fragmented landscapes, where foxes have open areas for foraging and nearby remnant bushland or other vegetation for shelter. Fragmented landscapes include agricultural and urban areas, open grasslands and woodlands.
At least 12 000 km2 of Tasmania is considered core fox habitat.
A. Warning signs are clearly posted on any property that is being baited for foxes to identify that fox baits have been laid on the property. Fox baits are only laid on a property with the prior written permission of the landowner and all reasonable measures are taken to notify any neighbouring properties to those being baited for foxes. In addition, a community notification process is undertaken to give members of the public the opportunity to keep informed about all on-ground operations of the Fox Eradication Program.
Fox baits are only generally laid on a property for 14-28 days, after which time any remaining baits are recovered.
Q. Will fox baits kill native wildlife?
A. The fox baiting program was carefully designed by wildlife experts to specifically target foxes while minimising risk to the Tasmanian native wildlife. This is achieved by the use of a species selective poison (1080, used in a very low dose), by limiting exposure of baits to wildlife (by burying them) and by reducing the chance of multiple bait uptake by any one animal (by placing baits at widely spaced intervals).
In low dosages, 1080 is species selective as different animals have different tolerance to it; foxes are very sensitive to 1080 whereas the Tasmanian native wildlife has varying degrees of tolerance. Fox baits use only 3 mg or 0.003 g of 1080 per bait. In general, a single fox bait will kill a fox but, for example, is of no risk to a Tasmanian devil.
Q. Will fox baits kill dogs and cats?
A. Both dogs and cats are very sensitive to 1080 and fox baits pose a risk to these animals. However, the risk can be managed by cooperative effort between animal owners and the Fox Eradication Program. The Fox Eradication Program undertakes a community notification process (including public information sessions and neighbour notifications) before fox baiting commences in a region. During fox baiting, all properties with fox baits on them are clearly signposted with warning signs on property access points.
Dog owners should maintain effective control over their dogs at all times, as is required under Tasmanian law. Dog owners should be responsible and manage the risk to dogs by keeping them away from properties that are being baited for foxes. If dogs are not able to be kept off or restrained within properties that contain fox baits then it is recommended that muzzles be used while fox baiting is being undertaken (generally 14-28 days per property).
Q. Why haven’t any fox carcasses been found following fox baiting programs?
A. It is highly unlikely that a fox carcass would ever be recovered from fox baiting programs in Tasmania. The poison used in fox baits (1080) is slow acting and may take 4-6 hours before having an effect. During this time it is likely that a poisoned fox would, when it starts to feel unwell, go to ground or some other location where it feels safe (such as in a den or dense vegetation). It is not then likely that the carcass would be found.
Even on the mainland, where there are millions of foxes, it is rare to find fox carcasses from fox baiting programs. Given Tasmania is dealing with a significantly smaller number of foxes, the chance that we would ever locate the carcass of a poisoned fox is very small.
Q. Will my dog die if it eats a poisoned carcass?
A. It is highly unlikely that a dog would receive secondary poisoning from eating a carcass that has resulted from a fox baiting program. The low dose of 1080 used in fox baits and the fact that 1080 is metabolised (broken down) within the body of an animal means that very little 1080 remains within the carcass of a poisoned animal.
Q. How long will the fox eradication effort last?
A. Eradication programs are fundamentally difficult to manage as they deal with null values, or an absence of data. The only way to know that an eradication program has been successful is following a period of time during which monitoring does not detect the target animal. The Tasmanian Fox Eradication Program is being delivered in a series of stages, and operations in Stage 2 involved a strategic statewide fox baiting program targeting core fox habitat in the state. The last fox bait from this program was retrieved in southern Tasmania on Thursday 6 June 2013.
Stage 3 operations are built around a systematic statewide monitoring program to detect fox activity. This program aims to determine if fox eradication has been successful (termed ‘validation’). This program is scheduled to be completed in 2017.
Monitoring will primarily be carried out through scat surveys using trained scat detector dogs. Scat surveys are the most effective means of detecting fox activity when foxes are in low numbers in the landscape.
Extensive monitoring and investigations in response to sighting reports has identified no new evidence of fox activity in Tasmania since July 2011. The lack of any recent evidence of fox activity is encouraging that fox eradication will be achieved in Tasmania. Should evidence of fox activity be detected, an incursion response will be initiated under the Invasive Species Branch's Incursion Response Framework. Incursion responses may involve a range of tools, including tactical fox baiting operations in target areas.
Public reporting of possible fox activity and ongoing monitoring for evidence of fox activity will always be vital in the protection of Tasmania’s biosecurity. We all have a role to play in helping Tasmania to be fox free.
Q. Are we making sure that foxes aren’t accidentally being transported to Tasmania on ships?
A. The Fox Eradication Program and Quarantine Tasmania work together to ensure the risk of accidental fox incursions into Tasmania is minimised. An Import Risk Analysis undertaken by the Biosecurity Policy Branch (DPIPWE) in 2007 assessed the risk from accidental fox introductions as low due to current management practices, port barriers to fox movement, and ship loading and sailing procedures.
Regular education activities are undertaken at each of the major mainland departure ports for Tasmanian shipping to ensure awareness of the threat is maintained and shipping staff are familiar with the action to take if a fox is suspected to be on a ship.
Q. Can you bring foxes and fox products into Tasmania?
A. There is a total ban on importing live foxes into Tasmania (Nature Conservation Act 2000) and no fox products (including fox carcasses, skins, tails, and fox urine and scats) are allowed into the state unless Special Authority has been issued by the Tasmanian Chief Veterinary Officer (Animal Health Act 1995). Severe penalties exist for importing foxes or fox products.
Only tanned fox skins and fully mounted foxes prepared by a taxidermist may be brought into Tasmania and these must be declared to Quarantine on arrival (but preferably before).
Q. Do we know that foxes have been released in Tasmania in the past?
A. Yes, we know that foxes have been introduced into Tasmania a number of times since settlement. Most of these introductions were for recreational hunting and the animals were killed shortly after release.
These are some of the historically recorded releases of foxes in Tasmania:
1864 - 1 fox released at Oatlands
1882 - 1 fox recorded at Launceston Zoo
1890 - 2 foxes released near Hobart
1910 - 2 foxes reportedly caught at Scottsdale
1911 - 1 fox imported from South Australia for Launceston City Park
1912 - 1 fox imported from NSW for Hobart Zoo
1972 - 1 fox caught in rabbit trap at Riverside (Launceston)
1998 - 1 fox reportedly escapes from ship at Burnie wharf
There are also (unsubstantiated) reports of multiple litters being reared and released in the Northern Midlands during the period 1935-1970 but, if they existed, the fate of these litters is unknown.
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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 3625.
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