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A preliminary study assessing risk to Tasmanian devils from poisoning for red foxes

Authors

  • Channing Hughes,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Wildlife Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia
    • Institute of Wildlife Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.
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  • Robbie Gaffney,

    1. Fox Eradication Branch, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, 134 Macquarie Street, Hobart, Tasmania 7000, Australia
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  • Christopher R. Dickman

    1. Institute of Wildlife Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia
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Errata

This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum: A preliminary study assessing risk to Tasmanian devils from poisoning for red foxes Volume 76, Issue 3, 659, Article first published online: 15 March 2012

  • Associate Editor: Terry A. Messmer.

Abstract

The recent introduction of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) to Australia's island state of Tasmania represents a major threat to native fauna. In response, the Tasmanian government has begun a fox eradication program using Foxoff®, a bait containing the poison sodium monofluoroacetate (commonly known as 1080). The bait is potentially attractive to native Tasmanian carnivores as well as to foxes. Of particular concern is the endangered Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), which is already at risk from an emergent infectious disease, devil facial tumor disease (DFTD). In both a captive and a field study using non-toxic Foxoff bait, we assessed bait palatability and possible effects of demographics, hunger level, bait age, and bait burial method on the likelihood of bait uptake by Tasmanian devils. Captive devils showed varying interest in the bait, but wild devils appeared to find it uniformly palatable. In the captive study, males and younger, captive-born animals were more likely to excavate and remove bait. Subterranean burial at 15 cm was the most effective deterrent to bait excavation; effectiveness decreased at shallower depths and with surface-level bait buried beneath soil mounds. Our findings suggest that the current fox-baiting campaign may negatively impact individual devils. More extensive study is necessary to assess potential risk at the population level. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.

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