By Maureen Cooper, Wooragee Landcare
Our First People, the Traditional Owners of our country, must have watched with horror at the Pandora’s Box that the European colonists loosed on their land with the introduction of foxes.
I am sure that everyone in Victoria knows the cost to farmers from fox depredation but did you realise that the cost to the environment is even greater. Their adverse impacts on Australia’s wildlife is so significant that they have been identified as a national threat to the protection and conservation of our native wildlife. 14 bird species, 48 mammals, 12 reptiles, and 2 amphibians (as listed under EPBC Act 1999) are threatened with extinction from Fox depredation. Foxes also threaten a number of critically endangered species, including orange-bellied parrot, spotted quail-thrush, herald petrel, Gilbert’s potoroo and western swamp tortoise.
Our ground-nesting birds, many of which are endangered or vulnerable are at most risk. This includes the Bush Stone-curlew which is listed as endangered in our region.
The environmental costs associated with foxes ($190 million) are considerably greater than their agricultural impact ($17.5 million) and consequently, any large-scale reduction in fox densities could generate significant environmental benefits as well as on farm benefits.
Foxes also carry a number of diseases and parasites including dog mange which can be transmitted to other animals including dogs and wombats.
(Information taken from Victorian Government Websites.)
My sad, personal experience of fox depredation on wildlife was when a pair of grebes nested on my dam and hatched out three chicks. The chicks were about 3 days old and the male shifted to the other dam on the property. At 10 0’clock in the morning I saw a fox running past the house with the female grebe in its jaws. It had caught her when she went too close to the shallow end of the dam. This left 3 baby grebe on their own. I couldn’t catch them as they would just dive underwater. After 3 more days the male returned but only the largest chick was still alive and the male stayed with it until it could fly. Since then I have killed many foxes using baits and poison down the dens that they dig on my 20 acre property and my grebes reared their young ones successfully last year.