Poisoning for production: how effective is fox baiting in south-eastern Australia?
- 1The European red fox Vulpes vulpes represents a continuing threat to both livestock and native vertebrates in Australia, and is commonly managed by setting ground-level baits impregnated with 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) poison. However, the long-term effectiveness of such control campaigns is likely to be limited due to the ability of foxes to disperse over considerable distances and to swiftly recolonize areas from where they had been removed.
- 2To investigate the effectiveness of fox baiting in a production landscape, we assessed the potential for foxes to reinvade baited farm property areas within the jurisdiction of the Molong Rural Lands Protection Board (RLPB), an area of 815 000 ha on the central tablelands of New South Wales, Australia. The spatial distribution and timing of fox baiting campaigns between 1998 and 2002 was estimated from RLPB records and mapped using Geographical Information System software. The effectiveness of the control campaign was assessed on the basis of the likely immigration of foxes from non-baited farms using immigration distances calculated from published relationships between dispersal distance and home range size.
- 3Few landholders undertook baiting campaigns in any given year, and the area baited was always so small that no baited property would have been sufficiently far from an unbaited property to have been immune from immigrating individuals. It is likely, therefore, that immigration onto farms negated any long-term effects of baiting operations. This study highlights some of the key deficiencies in current baiting practices in south-eastern Australia and suggests that pest management programmes should be monitored using such methods to ensure they achieve their goals.