Foxy loxy

28 04 2021

It all started when I noticed some scat around the house and on the lawns. It wasn’t cat scat, and it didn’t really look like dog scat, though it was more similar to dog than scat (I’m NOT a scat expert, but I had a cat for 17 years, so I’m very aware of what cat scat looks like). All the neighbourhood dogs stay on their properties and rarely, if ever, come onto our property. I Googled possum scat to see if it matched but it didn’t, so next I Googled fox scat. Hmmm, similar…. maybe we had a fox?

A couple of weeks after noticing the occasional scat, I walked out first thing in the morning to get the newspaper, as I do every day, and nearly trod on a big piece of flesh and fur—it was a hind leg of a rabbit, with the flesh cleaned off the lower leg and with meat and bunny fur still attached to the upper leg. I’d only walked there the previous morning, so this was new. My suspicions of a fox started to form (for those not living in Australia, we have very few native carnivores compared to other countries, so the choice of potential predator was limited). A few days later, I found another piece of dismembered rabbit (same one?) at the edge of the front lawn.

I called the Shire to see what to do if I thought there was a fox in our semi-suburban, semi-rural area, and was told they didn’t deal with foxes, but to contact the local biosecurity group (sort of part of the state government’s agriculture department). I did, and they offered to lend me a fox trap, but suggested I try a trail camera first to see what was coming into our yard. And yes, they would lend me a trailcam for 3 weeks. Off to the nearby town to pick it up and learn how to use it, and then I played the game of check the SD card each day to see what the camera captured.

Night one was promising—a rabbit went past the trailcam’s location! I moved the camera around various locations on our 0.4 ha (1-acre) property over the next week to find the optimal position. I captured LOTS of moving vegetation and clouds and not much else. But I did capture a fox! In fact, over the 3 weeks, the trailcam ‘caught’ the fox about 6 times, at various times of the night, and always crossing our large front driveway in much the same place each time.

OK, so I now know we have a fox, what to do about it? First, I let the neighbours who have chickens know that there was a fox travelling through our property to theirs. Then I contacted the biosecurity group who offered me a fox trap. But then the issue was what to do with the fox if one was caught in the trap (and no mention of what to do with rotting bait [chicken was recommended] while waiting for the fox to be caught). The standard thing is to shoot it, and if I didn’t know anyone with a gun who was prepared to shoot it in the cage, then they would give me the names of some sporting shooters who would do so for a small fee (most people in Australia don’t have guns, so it’s not like I knew anyone). But then the issue of a gunshot in semi-suburbia would arise, and I would expect the police to come and investigate, pronto. The other issue was disposal of the body—that would be our responsibility.

In addition to all those logistical issues were the emotional ones. My head absolutely knows that foxes are introduced vermin in Australia and they do untold damage to the local wildlife, as well as pets, chickens etc., and they must go. But my heart knows that foxes are beautiful creatures, with their pretty little faces and gorgeous colouring. And I know I would be REALLY upset if I had a fox in a trap and heard its mournful cries, and then heard the gunshot that killed it.

Fortunately, after I explained all this to the biosecurity people, they came up with a plan. Normally, they deal with farmers on large plots of land, where shooting and baiting foxes is a common occurrence, but this was semi-suburbia and I have a soft spot for foxes. A different strategy was needed. A few days later the person in charge called me and said she’d used Google Maps to see where we lived and suggested that the massive green belt on the other side of the highway from us would be an ideal place to bait for foxes, and, later in the year, rabbits. She would contact the government department and private owners of that land and the nearby farms, and once all was approved, the baiting would start (they can’t bait for foxes on properties less than 25 acres, so that ruled out that option for us).

A win-win for all, except the foxes, of course!



2 responses

28 04 2021

Nice little story, Rhonda. It’s a relief to read about a situation that is discussed in measured terms. When this sort of topic comes up on a local area Facebook page (often about deer in the semi-rural areas of western Brisbane), it soon descends into vilification, and I turn off.
By the way, I think we might have met at the IPEd national conference in Brisbane in 2017.

28 04 2021

Yes, I was at IPEd in Brisbane!

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