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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 33(6)

Does baiting influence the relative composition of the diet of foxes?

Michael W. Roberts A E, Nick Dexter B, Paul D. Meek C, Matt Hudson B, William A. Buttemer D

A Environmental Science, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. Current Address: Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia.
B Booderee National Park, Village Road, Jervis Bay Territory, NSW 2541, Australia.
C Forests New South Wales, North-East Region, PO Box 535, Coffs Harbour, NSW 2450, Australia.
D Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.
E Corresponding author. Email: mroberts@bio.mq.edu.au
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The changes in the diet of foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in the Jervis Bay Region was assessed following a long-term baiting program by analysing the composition of fox faecal excreta (scats). In all, 470 fox scats were collected between April and August 2003 from two baited sites, Booderee National Park (BNP) and Beecroft Peninsula, and from two unbaited sites in the southern and northern parts of Jervis Bay National Park (SJBNP and NJBNP respectively). Diet was compared between these sites and mammalian diet was also compared from scats collected before baiting in 1996 and after baiting in 2000 at Beecroft Peninsula and in 2001 at Booderee National Park. In 2003, the most common species consumed by foxes was the common ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus), except at unbaited NJBNP, where the swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) was the most frequent dietary item. Significant dietary differences were found between unbaited and baited sites, with the long-nosed bandicoot (Perameles nasuta) and P. peregrinus featuring more in the diet of foxes from the baited sites. Marked increases in the frequency of occurrence of P. peregrinus and P. nasuta in fox scats occurred from before baiting through to after baiting. Relative fox abundance, as indexed by the number of scats collected per kilometre, was lowest in Booderee, followed by Beecroft, then SJBNP, with NJBNP having the highest relative abundance of foxes. We suggest that baiting did affect the diet of foxes on both peninsulas and that the dietary changes across baiting histories were intrinsically related to an increase in abundance in some taxa as a result of relaxed predator pressure following sustained fox control. However, the lack of unbaited control sites over the whole study precludes a definitive conclusion.

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