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Red Fox in Australia

Red Fox in Australia



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Published by draculavanhelsing
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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: draculavanhelsing on Aug 25, 2010
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European red fox
Vulpes vulpes
Declaration details
Under the
Land Protection (Pest and Stock RouteManagement) Act 2002
, the ox is a declared Class 2 pestanimal and it is the responsibility o landholders to controloxes on their own land. Foxes cannot be kept in captivityor introduced to Queensland without a permit.
Description and general information
The most common and widespread o the world’s many oxspecies is the European red ox ( 
Vulpes vulpes
 ). Foxes area major pest species in Australia that threaten agriculturaland native species alike. Foxes have pointed muzzles,attened slender skulls, large ears and long bushy tails.Adult male oxes weigh around 6 kg, while emales weighabout 5 kg.
Habitat and distribution
The European red ox was deliberately introduced intoAustralia in 1845. First released near Melbourne or sporting purposes, it spread rapidly. By 1893, it hadbecome a nuisance in north-eastern Victoria and by 1930it occupied most o southern Australia.Next to wild dogs, the ox is the largest land-dwellingcarnivorous mammal in Australia. Foxes are adapted to avariety o dierent habitats, ranging rom deserts to urbanenvironments. However, oxes are not ound in tropicalAustralia. Competition with dingoes, climatic preerencesand ood supply likely determine their distribution.PA13 July 2010
Current distribution of the European red fox
Foxes in Queensland are primarily carnivorous (meat-eating) scavengers and opportunistic predators.Although they consume a varied diet o rabbits, rodents,rogs, birds, insects and even ruit, most o their diet inQueensland consists o kangaroo and sheep carrion.Fox predation is considered the greatest threat to thelong-term survival o many small marsupial species inAustralia. Long-term studies have shown that rock wallabyand malleeowl populations are probably regulated byox predation. Predation on birds and reptiles appearsseasonal.
Growth and reproduction
Foxes breed once a year. Over a period o 2−3 weeks inearly winter emales come into oestrus or 2−3 days. Malesappear to be ertile throughout winter and early spring.The ox’s gestation period is 51−53 days. Cubs aregenerally born in burrows but litters have been ound inhollow trees, rock crevices, under houses or in stick-rakepiles. Litter size ranges rom 4–10.Although red oxes have generally been consideredmonogamous, communal denning has now been recorded,as well as the presence o ‘helpers’ at the den.The proportion o vixens that breed varies greatly betweenareas (ranging rom 30% to nearly 100%).Fox populations can withstand up to 75% yearly mortalityrates and recover to pre-control population levels. Recoveryrates are dependent on immigration rates and breeding.
Foxes generally disperse rom where they were born inautumn at 6−9 months o age. Dispersal behaviour variesbetween males and emales and between individualso the same litter. Females generally disperse 3−15 kmand males 11−43 km, although distances o 170 km havebeen recorded.Foxes were previously thought to be solitary, but recentevidence suggests that ox amily groups occupy well-dened home ranges. Rural home ranges in Australianare about 500 ha; however, this depends on resourceavailability.Foxes are usually active at night and rest during the dayin an earth den (oten an enlarged rabbit burrow), thicket,hollow log or stick-rake pile. In winter, when there is lessood available, oxes may hunt and scavenge during the day.Although paths may cross many times each night, oxeswithin a group tend to orage in dierent parts o the group’sterritory. Dominant animals monopolise the best habitat.Faeces and urine are used to dene territories by scentmarking conspicuous landmarks like tussocks o grassand rabbit warrens. These scent marks are distributedthroughout the ox’s range, especially in places that arevisited oten. Dominant animals scent mark with urinemore than subordinates.Foxes communicate by sound as well as by scent markingand body language. Young oxes use aggressive yappingand a resonant howl during the winter mating season.Vixens and pups will bark and whimper sotly. Adult oxesalso scream.
Causes of mortality
Mortality o young oxes is generally high, with up to80% dying in the rst year. Poisoning, hunting, roadkills,disease, ood shortage and social actors contribute tomortality.Most oxes live less than our years, although eight-year-old oxes in the wild have been reported. Mange anddistemper are thought to be important causes o mortalityin wild ox populations; however, little is known abouttheir role in regulating Australian ox populations.
Predation on livestock
In some circumstances red oxes may kill lambs and goatkids. Fox predation on healthy, viable lambs is generallyless than 5%; however, this varies between properties.Individual rogue oxes can cause high stock losses.Furthermore, red oxes, as well as dingoes/wild dogs, arenoted or ‘surplus killing’ and will kill multiple easy preyanimals despite an abundance o carrion.Foxes usually attack the throat o lambs and kids,although some are killed by multiple bites to the neck andback. This may result rom young animals being caughtwhile lying down. Foxes do not have the size and strengthto hold and immobilise adult sheep or goats, or to crushlarge bones; thereore, repeated bites may be required tosubdue prey.Foxes generally preer large internal organs and begineeding through an entry behind the ribs. However, some
Current oxdistributionPossible oxdistribution inyears o avourablerainall
2 European red fox
Vulpes vulpes
target the nose and tongue and may consume the head o small prey. Red oxes are noted or carrying small carcasesback to their dens to eed their young, which may accountor some poultry, lambs and kids that disappear and arenever ound.One way to distinguish ox kills rom wild dog attacks is thatoxes rarely cause severe bone damage to stock. Poultrycan, however, be badly damaged through ox attacks.
Urban foxes
Both in Australia and overseas oxes readily survive andprosper in urban environments. Fox densities in Melbourneare reported to be as high as 16 per km
compared todensities generally less than 2 per km
in most semi-aridgrazing areas.The distribution o urban oxes depends on the availabilityo suitable daytime hiding places. While oxes in urbanareas are generally ound in remnant bushland or parks,oxes can nd reuge under railway platorms, houses or sheds, or in quiet gardens. The availability or distributiono ood supply in any given habitat will also aect thedistribution o urban oxes. Bushland areas in and aroundcities provide ideal shelter.In urban areas, oxes eat a diversity o ood typesincluding small birds, worms, insects, ruit and ood putout by residents.Urban oxes will rarely attack people. However, any urbanox is a wild animal and should be treated as such.Urban oxes can be a nuisance by:
attacking poultry and livestock in people’s yards
raiding garbage bins scavenging or ood
digging holes in lawns while scavenging or ood
causing domestic dogs to bark.
Rabies threat
Foxes, along with other eral animals, have the potentialto spread diseases such as rabies, should such diseasesever be introduced into Australia. They would also providea reservoir o inection, making rabies almost impossibleto eliminate.Rabies is a contagious disease o virtually all mammals,including humans. Once symptoms o rabies appear, thevirus is almost always atal to both humans and animals.This deadly virus is not established in Australia but ispresent in Asia.However, we should not be complacent about the rabiesissue. All oxes are capable o contracting and spreadingrabies. In the Northern Hemisphere red oxes are theprincipal vectors and victims o the disease. Millions o oxes have been culled overseas in unsuccessul attemptsto control the disease.
Current options available or control o oxes in Queenslandinclude poisoning, trapping, shooting, guard animals andexclusion encing. The choice o control method shouldsuit the individual circumstances. The potential o M-44mechanical toxin ejectors and ertility control, such asimmunocontraception, is also being researched.
Presently there are two poisons legally available or oxcontrol in Queensland—sodium monouoroacetate (1080)and strychnine.1080 poison baits are the most economical and eectivemethod o controlling oxes. Processed (FOXOFF®) or reshmeat baits can be laid quickly by hand, vehicle or romthe air, with population reductions o greater than 90%recorded rom some baiting campaigns.Baits should be placed along track and ence lines200−500 m apart, 8−10 cm underground and covered withloose soil. Burying baits has the advantages o reducingnon-target bait take (more baits or oxes) and protectingbaits rom the elements. All property neighbours shouldbe notied at least 72 hours prior to baiting, and baitingsignage should be erected at every property entranceand let or at least one month ater baiting. Based on oxbiology, the optimum time to bait is in November ollowedby June/July when ood demand is highest (this coincideswith lambing on many properties). Foxes are also otenkilled by 1080 baiting programs that are designed primarilyto control wild dogs or eral pigs. FOXOFF® or meatbaits can only be obtained through licensed BiosecurityQueensland ofcers and local government operators.Queensland and Western Australia are the only two statesthat have not outlawed the use o strychnine or controllingoxes based on target specicity and humanity issues.
3 European red fox
Vulpes vulpes

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