Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The impact of fox control on the relative abundance of forest mammals in East Gippsland, Victoria

Nick Dexter A C and Andy Murray B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Booderee National Park, Village Road, Jervis Bay, JBT 2540, Australia.

B Department of Sustainability and Environment, Orbost, Vic. 3888, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: nick.dexter@environment.gov.au

Wildlife Research 36(3) 252-261 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR08135
Submitted: 24 September 2008  Accepted: 12 January 2009   Published: 15 April 2009

Abstract

Predation by European red foxes is believed to be the major cause of the extinction and decline of a large number of native medium-sized terrestrial mammals in Australia. We examined the impact of poisoning of foxes on the relative abundance of a group of medium-sized mammals in an experiment conducted in three large forest blocks in south-eastern Australia. The blocks consisted of paired sites, as follows: one site where poison baiting was used to control foxes (treatment site) and one where foxes were not controlled (non-treatment site). At all six sites, the population responses of a range of mammals were measured, and compared between treatment and non-treatment sites. The relative fox abundance, as indexed by bait-take, declined during the course of the study at treatment sites and to a lesser extent at non-treatment sites. The decline in bait-take at non-treatment sites was most likely due to treatment sites acting as ecological traps, so that reduced intra-specific competition attracted foxes from non-treatment to treatment sites, where they were subsequently poisoned. There was a significant treatment effect for the abundances of total mammals, long-nosed potoroos, southern brown bandicoots and common brushtail possums, with higher abundances at treatment sites than at non-treatment sites. Common ringtail possums increased in abundance during the course of the study, with no significant difference between treatment and non-treatment sites. There was no significant effect of time or treatment on the abundance of long-nosed bandicoots. The increase in the abundance of native mammals at treatment sites was most likely due to a lower predation pressure by foxes brought about by fox control, and the smaller increase in abundance in non-treatment blocks was likely due to the ecological-trap effect because of fox baiting at treatment sites. The present study demonstrated that broad-scale fox control can lead to increases in the abundance of native mammals in forested habitats, without recourse to aerial baiting or fences. The study also demonstrated that the influence of fox control on the fox abundance can extend well beyond the perimeter of the area baited.


Acknowledgements

This study was funded initially by the Federal Australian Department of Environment and Heritage, and subsequently by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment. We thank Rob Poore and Bob Andrews for their contribution to the fieldwork. We thank Dr Stephen Henry and Dr David Choquenot of the Department of Sustainability and Environment, for their support for this study. Comments from Paul Meek, and Andrew Claridge improved the quality of the manuscript. The work was carried out under Victorian Department of Natural Resources & Environment Animal Ethics Committee Approval Number 99/001.


References

Ashby E. A. , Lunney D. , Robertshaw J. , and Harden R. (1990). Distribution and status of bandicoots in New South Wales. In ‘Bandicoots and Bilbies’. (Eds J. H. Seebeck, P. R. Brown, R. L. Wallis and C. M. Kemper.) pp. 43–50. (Surrey Beatty: Sydney.)

Baker, P. J. , Funk, S. M. , White, P. C. L. , and Harris, S. (2000). Flexible spatial organization of foxes (Vulpes vulpes) before and during an outbreak of sarcoptic mange. Animal Behaviour 59, 127–146.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Banks, P. B. (1999). Predation by introduced foxes on native bush rats in Australia: do foxes take the doomed surplus? Journal of Applied Ecology 36, 1063–1071.
CrossRef |

Banks, P. B. , Hume, I. D. , and Crowe, O. (1999). Behavioural, morphological and dietary response of rabbits to predation risk from foxes. Oikos 85, 247–256.
CrossRef |

Banks, P. B. , Newsome, A. E. , and Dickman, C. R. (2000). Predation by red foxes limits recruitment in populations of eastern grey kangaroos. Austral Ecology 25, 283–291.


Battin, J. (2004). When good animals love bad habitats: ecological traps and the conservation of animal populations. Conservation Biology 18, 1482–1491.
CrossRef |

Bennett A. F. (1987). Conservation of mammals within a fragmented forest environment: the contributions of insular biogeography and autecology. In ‘Nature Conservation: The Role of Remnants of Native Vegetation’. (Eds D. A. Saunders, G. W. Arnold, A. A. Burbidge and A. J. M. Hopkins.) pp. 41–52. (Surrey Beatty: Sydney.)

Berndtsson, R. (1987). Spatial and temporal variability of rainfall and potential evaporation in Tunisia. International Association of Hydrological Sciences Publication 168, 1–100.


Bloomfield T. (2003). Foxes and their impact, Landcare Notes, LC0304. Victorian Department of Primary Industries, Melbourne.

Brown, G. W. , and Triggs, B. E. (1990). Diets of wild canids and foxes in East Gippsland 1983–1987, using predator scat analysis. Australian Mammalogy 13, 209–213.


Caughley G. (1977). ‘Analysis of Vertebrate Populations .’ (Wiley: Chichester, UK.)

Claridge A. W. , McNee A. , Tanton M. T. , and Davey S. M. (1991). Ecology of bandicoots in undisturbed forest adjacent to recently felled logging coupes: a case study from the Eden Woodchip Agreement Area. In ‘Conservation of Australia’s Forest Fauna’. (Ed. D. Lunney.) pp. 331–346. (The Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales: Sydney.)

Cowan, P. E. , Brockie, R. E. , Smith, R. N. , and Hearfield, M. E. (1997). Dispersal of juvenile brushtail possums, Trichosurus vulpecula, after a control operation. Wildlife Research 24, 279–288.
CrossRef |

Delibes, M. , Gaona, P. , and Ferreras, P. (2001). Effects of an attractive sink leading into maladaptive habitat selection. American Naturalist 158, 277–285.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Dexter, N. , and Meek, P. (1998). An analysis of bait-take and non-target impacts during a fox control exercise. Wildlife Research 25, 147–155.
CrossRef |

Dexter, N. , Dowler, R. , Flanagan, J. , Hart, S. , Revelez, M. A. , and Lee, T. (2004). The influence of feral cats Felis catus on the distribution and abundance of introduced and endemic Galápagos rodents. Pacific Conservation Biology 10, 210–215.


Dickman, C. R. (1996). Impact of exotic generalist predators on the native fauna of Australia. Wildlife Biology 2, 185–195.


Friend, J. A. (1990a). The numbat Myrmecobius fasciatus (Myrmecobidae): history of decline and potential for recovery. Proceedings of the Ecological Society of Australia 16, 367–369.


Friend J. A. (1990 b). Status of bandicoots in Western Australia. In ‘Bandicoots and Bilbies’. (Eds J. H. Seebeck, P. R. Brown, R. L. Wallis and C. M. Kemper.) pp. 73–84. (Surrey Beatty: Sydney.)

Gillespie G. , Humphries R. , Horrocks G. F. B. , Lobert B. O. , and McLaughlin J. (1992). Flora and fauna of the Stony Peak and Genoa Forest blocks, East Gippsland, Victoria. Ecological Survey Report No. 33, Melbourne. Department of Conservation and Environment, Melbourne.

Gordon, G. (1974). Movements and activity of the short-nosed bandicoot Isoodon macrourus Gould (Marsupialia). Mammalia 38, 405–431.


Gordon G. , Hall L. S. , and Atherton R. G. (1990). Status of bandicoots in Queensland. In ‘Bandicoots and Bilbies’. (Eds J. H. Seebeck, P. R. Brown, R. L. Wallis and C. M. Kemper.) pp. 37–42. (Surrey Beatty: Sydney.)

Greentree, C. , Saunders, G. , McLeod, L. , and Hone, J. (2000). Lamb predation and fox control in south-eastern Australia. Journal of Applied Ecology 37, 935–943.
CrossRef |

Griffiths, O. , Cook, A. , and Wells, S. M. (1993). The diet of the carnivorous snail Euglandina rosea in Mauritius and its implications for threatened island gastropod faunas. Journal of Zoology 229, 79–89.
CrossRef |

Heinsohn, G. E. (1966). Ecology and reproduction of the Tasmanian bandicoots (Perameles gunnii and Isoodon obesulus). University of California Publications in Zoology 80, 1–107.


Hocking G. J. (1990). Status of bandicoots in Tasmania. In’Bandicoots and Bilbies’. (Eds J. H. Seebeck, P. R. Brown, R. L. Wallis and C. M. Kemper.) pp. 61–66. (Surrey Beatty: Sydney.)

Jones, B. A. , How, R. A. , and Kitchener, D. J. (1994). A field study of Pseudocheirus occidentalis (Marsupalia: Petauridae). I. Distribution and habitat. Wildlife Research 21, 175–187.
CrossRef |

Kavanagh, R. P. (1988). The impact of predation by the powerful owl Ninox strenua on a population of the greater glider Petauroides volans. Australian Journal of Ecology 13, 445–450.
CrossRef |

Kerle, J. A. , Foulkes, J. N. , Kimber, R. G. , and Papenfus, D. (1992). The decline of the brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula (Kerr 1798), in arid Australia. Rangeland Journal 14, 107–127.
CrossRef |

Kinnear, J. E. , Onus, M. L. , and Bromilow, R. N. (1988). Fox control and rock-wallaby population dynamics. Australian Wildlife Research 15, 435–450.
CrossRef |

Kinnear, J. E. , Onus, M. L. , and Sumner, N. R. (1998). Fox control and rock-wallaby population dynamics – II. An update. Wildlife Research 25, 81–88.
CrossRef |

Kinnear, J. E. , Sumner, N. R. , and Onus, M. L. (2002). The red fox in Australia: an exotic predator turned biocontrol agent. Biological Conservation 108, 335–359.
CrossRef |

Krebs, C. J. (1966). Demographic changes in fluctuating populations of Microtis californicus. Ecological Monographs 36, 239–273.
CrossRef |

Long, K. I. (2001). Spatio-temporal interactions among male and female long-nosed potoroos, Potorous tridactylus (Marsupialia : Macropodoidea): mating system implications. Australian Journal of Zoology 49, 17–26.
CrossRef |

Lunney, D. (1987). Effects of logging, fire and drought on possums and gliders in the coastal forests near Bega, NSW. Wildlife Research 14, 263–274.
CrossRef |

MacDonald D. W. (1987). ‘Running with the Fox.’ (Unwin Hyman: London.)

Mallick, S. A. , Driessen, M. M. , Hocking, G. J. , and Gregory, J. (2000). Demography and home range of the eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii) in south-eastern Tasmania. Wildlife Research 27, 103–115.
CrossRef |

McIlroy, J. C. , and King, D. R. (1990). Appropriate amounts of 1080 poison in baits to control foxes, Vulpes vulpes. Australian Wildlife Research 17, 11–13.
CrossRef |

Meek, P. D. , and Saunders, G. (2000). Home range and movement of foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in coastal New South Wales. Australian Wildlife Research 27, 663–668.
CrossRef |

Menkhorst P. W. , and Seebeck J. H. (1990). Distribution and conservation status of bandicoots in Victoria. In ‘Bandicoots and Bilbies’. (Eds J. H. Seebeck, P. R. Brown, R. L. Wallis and C. M. Kemper.) pp. 51–60. (Surrey Beatty: Sydney.)

Novaro, A. J. , Funes, M. C. , and Walker, R. S. (2005). An empirical test of source–sink dynamics induced by hunting. Journal of Applied Ecology 42, 910–920.
CrossRef |

Oksanen, L. (2001). Logic of experiments in ecology: is pseudoreplication a pseudoissue? Oikos 94, 27–38.
CrossRef |

Orell P. (2003). Western Shield, fauna monitoring and staff training, 1996–2003. A paper prepared for the Western Shield Review, Conservation and Land Management, Perth.

Phillips, M. , and Catling, P. C. (1991). Home range and activity patterns of red foxes in Nadgee Nature Reserve. Wildlife Research 18, 677–686.
CrossRef |

Piggott, M. , Wilson, R. , Marks, C. A. , Banks, S. C. , Gigliotti, F. , and Taylor, A. C. (2008). Evaluating exotic predator control programs using non-invasive genetic tagging. Wildlife Research 35, 617–624.
CrossRef |

Pulliam, H. R. (1988). Sources, sinks, and population regulation. American Naturalist 132, 652–661.
CrossRef |

Ross, J. G. , Hickling, G. J. , Morgan, D. R. , and Eason, C. T. (2000). The role of non-toxic prefeed and postfeed in the development and maintenance of 1080 bait shyness in captive brushtail possums. Wildlife Research 27, 69–74.
CrossRef |

Saunders G. , Coman B. , Kinnear J. , and Braysher M. (1995). ‘Managing Vertebrate Pests: Foxes.’ (Bureau of Resource Sciences: Canberra.)

Savidge, J. A. (1987). Extinction of an island forest avifauna by an introduced snake. Ecology 68, 660–668.
CrossRef |

Scott, L. K. , Hume, I. D. , and Dickman, C. R. (1999). Ecology and population biology of long-nosed bandicoots (Peremeles nasuta) at North Head, Sydney Harbour National Park. Wildlife Research 26, 805–821.
CrossRef |

Short, J. (1998). The extinction of rat-kangaroos (Marsupialia : Potoroidae) in New South Wales, Australia. Biological Conservation 86, 365–377.
CrossRef |

Sinclair, A. R. E. , Pech, R. P. , Dickman, C. R. , Hik, D. , Mahon, P. , and Newsome, A. E. (1998). Predicting effects of predation on conservation of endangered prey. Conservation Biology 12, 564–575.
CrossRef |

Stoddart, D. M. , and Braithwaite, R. W. (1979). A strategy for utilization of regenerating heathland by the brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus). Journal of Animal Ecology 48, 165–179.
CrossRef |

Thomas L. N. (1990). Stress and population regulation in Isoodon obesulus (Shaw & Nodder). In ‘Bandicoots and Bilbies’. (Eds J. H. Seebeck, P. R. Brown, R. L. Wallis and C. M. Kemper.) pp. 335–343. (Surrey Beatty: Sydney.)

Thompson, S. D. (1987). Body size, duration of parental care, and the intrinsic rate of natural increase in eutherian and metatherian mammals. Oecologia 71, 201–209.
CrossRef |

Thomson, P. C. , Marlow, N. J. , Rose, K. , and Kok, N. E. (2000). The effectiveness of a large-scale baiting campaign and an evaluation of a buffer zone strategy for fox control. Wildlife Research 27, 465–472.
CrossRef |

Triggs, B. , Brunner, H. , and Cullen, J. M. (1984). The food of fox, dog and cat in Croajingalong National Park, south-eastern Victoria. Australian Wildlife Research 11, 491–499.
CrossRef |

Viggers, K. L. , Lindenmayer, D. B. , Cunningham, R. B. , and Donnelly, C. F. (1998). Estimating body condition in the mountain brushtail possum, Trichosurus caninus. Wildlife Research 25, 499–509.
CrossRef |

Von Ende C. (2001). Repeated measures analysis: growth and other time dependent measures. In ‘Design and Analysis of Ecological Experiments’. (Eds S. M. Scheiner and J. Gurevitch.) pp. 134–157. (Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.)



Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (46)