Foxes are one of the most widely
distributed feral animals in Australia
© Biodiversity Qld
The European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) was introduced into Australia for the sport of recreational hunting in Victoria in 1855 and became recognised as a pest animal within 30 years. Native to the northern hemisphere, the fox is one of 11 canine species world-wide. Foxes threaten agricultural and native species in Australia.
The fox is category 3, 4, 5 and 6 restricted matter under Queensland legislation. It is the responsibility of landholders to control foxes on their land.
After the dingo and wild dog, the fox is the largest carnivorous mammal on mainland Australia.
Problems caused by foxes
Foxes pose a serious threat to native wildlife, domestic animals and are also potential carriers of the Rabies virus. Foxes are often seen with little or no fur. These foxes usually have Mange, a condition that is also transmitted to domestic and wild animals.
What they look like
- pointed muzzle and red fur
- skull is flattened and slender
- large ears
- long bushy tail
- an adult fox can weigh between 4.5 kilograms and eight kilograms.
Where they live
- Foxes are common in areas where chickens are kept. The smell encourages foxes. As chickens are such a vulnerable animal and easy to catch, the foxes will readily take chickens for food.
- Foxes are common in urban-rural fringe areas. On the Gold Coast, foxes have been captured in Helensvale, Robina, Burleigh Beach, and most suburbs west of the M1 motorway.
- They usually scavenge for food around rubbish bins in parklands. They scavenge scraps in picnic and barbeque areas and dig in backyard compost heaps.
- During the day they shelter in thick vegetation along gullies and creek banks, in hollow logs, under houses, in drainpipes and even old car bodies.
Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, it is the owner's responsibility to manage foxes on their land. There are a number of ways to control foxes on your property. These include exclusion, trapping and habitat modification.
Exclusion fencing can be very costly, however it is the only reliable method to ensure the animals are not entering the property. The fence should be made of wire which is strong (foxes will chew through conventional chicken wire) and a gauge less than seven centimetres, as they can push through gaps this size. The fence should be at least 1.5 metres high and dug into the ground at least 150 millimetres to prevent them from digging under. Electrifying the fence top and bottom will further reduce the likelihood of the fox getting onto the property. Foxes have been sighted climbing fencing to get to animals such as chickens and then climbing back over with the animal in their mouth. Due to this, if not electrified, the fence should have a return on the top which stops the fox from climbing over, or a roof placed over the top.
If the property is particularly large, exclusion fencing can be used in an area for the protection of stock and pets. If a chicken pen is required, ensure foxes cannot access this by using heavy duty wire and enclosing the pen so the foxes cannot dig under and gain access. As people are now free-ranging their chickens more and more without fencing as protection, foxes are adapting to this human behaviour. Foxes are now sighted in the daytime more often than they used to be. They are seen in the day visiting properties and will opportunistically kill and take free-ranging poultry. Due to this, it is not recommended to free range poultry without the adequate protection of a secure fence.
Trapping techniques must conform to accepted animal welfare practices and the traps used must be approved by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
For personal safety, captured foxes should be humanely put down whilst trapped.
Soft catch rubber-jawed foot-hold traps
Soft catch rubber-jawed traps are designed to firmly hold captured foxes and practically eliminate trap-induced and self-induced injury. Trapping using this method is not recommended for urban or peri-urban areas, due to the chance of catching other animals including wildlife and domestic animals.
The main type of trap used for the capture of foxes is a wire cage trap which usually has a trigger and a door that closes behind the fox. These traps can be very successful, easy to use and will not harm the animal once caught. Cage traps are recommended for use in most areas, especially where there is an increased chance of capturing other animals such as wildlife or domestic pets.
Removing dense thickets of weeds and piles of rubbish may greatly reduce the available habitat for foxes on your property. Foxes will utilise thickets of lantana or other dense bush to live in. Dens may be sighted on properties. These are usually only used during breeding season between August and December. At all other times of year, the foxes do not require a den to live in. A den is usually located on the side of a bank or hill and is characterised by a hole around 15 centimetres across, with a mound of dirt at the entrance. A den often has parts of the fox's prey animals at the entrance or nearby.
What you can do
- Habitat modification and weed cover - weeds such as Lantana provide an ideal habitat for the fox. Removal of thickets will reduce the available habitat.
- Feeding - do not create feeding stations for local native wildlife because these can be used by foxes to ambush unsuspecting wildlife. Do not domesticate foxes by intentionally feeding them.
- Property cleanliness - lock up domestic animals and pets in a roofed enclosure, especially at night. Dispose of food scraps, uneaten pet food and excess fruit dropped by fruit trees. Always cover your compost heap, or if possible use a compost bin.
If you see a fox in your area, tell your neighbours: a cooperative community approach is necessary to achieve all pest management goals. It is important that you report fox sightings to the City of Gold Coast. To report sightings of foxes, complete our online Report a problem - Animals form or phone us on 1300 GOLD COAST or 07 5582 8211.
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