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6 May 2016 Control of the red fox in remnant forest habitats
Alison L. Towerton, Christopher R. Dickman, Rodney P. Kavanagh, Trent D. Penman
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Context. The European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is subject to control by poison baiting in many parts of its range in Australia to protect both native and domestic species. Assessments of baiting programs can improve their effectiveness and help ensure that long-term control outcomes are achieved.

Aims. We describe spatial and temporal patterns of bait uptake by the red fox in remnant forest within an agricultural matrix, including multiple bait-takes and hotspots of activity over time, and examine the response of foxes to baiting operations.

Methods. We analysed bait uptake (Foxoff®) from 12 baiting operations over 5 years in the Goonoo forest, a 62 500 ha remnant surrounded by cleared land in central New South Wales, Australia. More than 8000 checks of bait-stations were analysed to provide indices of fox activity per bait-check, patterns of bait removal during bait-checks, and bait uptake at stations within and across operations. Fox activity was also assessed before and after four operations using sand plots.

Key results. There was no consistent decline in relative fox activity in relation to changes in bait-take; increases in the activity index occurred in successive checks within most operations. Spatial analyses of checks within control operations showed that consecutive baits were removed at more than 70% of bait stations that were visited by foxes. Temporal analyses showed further that within an operation, multiple bait-takes occurred at ∼20% of stations and, across all operations, hot spots of activity could be identified.

Conclusions. A short (2-week) baiting window in standard baiting operations may not be effective in reducing the activity of foxes across the landscape. It is likely that many baits are being cached during each operation, and that foxes move into the baited area from unbaited surrounding areas.

Implications. More frequent and timely baiting operations are needed to achieve maximum disruption to the fox population in the remnant forest environment, at least as indicated by patterns of bait-take. Increasing the distance between baits, to ∼1.5 km, while reducing baiting-gaps at the landscape scale, will also be important to reduce caching and still ensure that baits are encountered.

© The authors 2016
Alison L. Towerton, Christopher R. Dickman, Rodney P. Kavanagh, and Trent D. Penman "Control of the red fox in remnant forest habitats," Wildlife Research 43(2), 169-177, (6 May 2016).
Received: 3 July 2015; Accepted: 1 February 2016; Published: 6 May 2016
Bait uptake
fox control
sand plots
Vulpes vulpes
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