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Fox-baiting in agricultural landscapes in south-eastern Australia: a case-study appraisal and suggestions for improvement

Authors

  • Andrew Carter,

  • Gary W. Luck,

  • Simon P. McDonald


Andrew Carter is a research officer and Gary Luck is an Associate Professor with the Institute for Land, Water and Society at Charles Sturt University (PO Box 789, Albury, NSW 2640, Australia; Tel: +61 2 6051 9945; Email: galuck@csu.edu.au). Simon McDonald is a spatial analysis officer with Charles Sturt University’s Spatial Data Analysis Network (PO Box 789, Albury, NSW 2640, Australia; Tel: +61 2 6051 9922; Email: smcdonald@csu.edu.au). This research was part of Andrew Carter’s Doctoral Thesis which aimed to improve the management of foxes in agricultural landscapes inhabited by Bush Stone-curlews.

Abstract

Summary  In south-eastern Australia, the introduced Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is a major predator of native wildlife and livestock. Fox control in agricultural landscapes is heavily reliant on the laying of poisoned baits by private landholders, yet there have been few assessments of the application or success of landholder-baiting practices. We evaluated a community-based fox-baiting campaign, typical of programs employed throughout the agricultural regions of south-eastern Australia to control foxes. We recorded the spatial coverage of 1080 baits deployed by landholders, assessed baiting procedures, monitored the survival of six radio-collared foxes during and after baiting, and compared the spatial coverage and likely effectiveness of the baiting program with two alternative (theoretical) baiting strategies. Relative to other baiting programs, coordination among neighbours was reasonably high, with 37.5% of baited properties (= 40) adjoining ≥3 neighbouring properties that also contained baits. Nevertheless, the maximum distance from the centre of a baited property to the nearest edge of an unbaited property was <750 m (mean = 380 m ± 147 m SD). On average, 33% (±17% SD) of each fox’s home range overlapped with baited properties, but only two foxes died during the baiting program. The remaining four foxes were still alive 10 weeks after baiting ceased. Modelling of simulated fox home ranges showed that 13.5% contained no bait stations based on the community baiting program, whereas alternative roadside- and grid-baiting strategies (theoretically) delivered baits to all simulated home ranges. Some landholders employed practices that could reduce the effectiveness of baiting programs such as not removing decayed baits before deploying new ones or placing bait stations too close together. Our research illustrates the difficulties of managing a coordinated baiting program on private land that effectively controls foxes. Alternative baiting strategies such as roadside baiting need to be considered to improve fox control in agricultural landscapes.

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