Our Latest News

Fly in, fly out working bee for Three Hummock Island

16/12/2014

Tracks were cleared and Three Hummock Island's home airstrip was improved during a week-long working bee by the North West Walking Club, Parks staff and the island's managers.More

Richardsons Beach wins clean beach award

11/11/2014

Richardsons Beach, one of Freycinet National Park's many beautiful beaches, was the Overall Winner of the Keep Australia Beautiful Tasmania Clean Beaches awards this year.More

Arthur-Pieman tracks to re-open

10/11/2014

By Christmas this year, recreational off-road vehicle drivers will be able to access the full length of the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area from the Arthur River in the north to the Pieman River in the south.More

Threatening Processes

Foxes in Tasmania

Fox with bandicoot

A fox takes a barred bandicoot,
one of many native species which has
been pushed to the brink of extinction.
(Photo by Clive Marks)

The European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) was introduced to mainland Australia as early as the 1850's. Since that time the fox has inflicted enormous impacts on the native wildlife of Australia, being implicated in the extinction of many native animals. Indeed, Australia's appalling record of mammal extinctions in the last 200 years - the worst in the world - is in no small part due to the fox.

The Red Fox has recently been introduced into Tasmania.

Cleveland fox

Cleveland fox, discovered on the Glen
Esk Road in Cleveland on 1st August 2006

Increased evidence of the presence of foxes in Tasmania has been growing since the late 1990s. It is unproven how foxes may have arrived in the State, whether deliberately introduced or accidental introduction via cargo ship or other – or a combination of both; but those that are here must be found and eradicated.

When it first began in 2002 the Fox Free Tasmania Taskforce was a part of the Parks and Wildlife Service.

The Fox Eradication Program is now managed by the Resource Management and Conservation division of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment - see the Foxes in Tasmania web pages for full details. These pages include details of the program's activities including its baiting regime; hard evidence of the presence of foxes which has been discovered in the State; how the public can identify foxes or signs of their presence; the damage foxes would do if established, and much more.

The public is urged to take seriously the threat which the fox poses to our State, and to support the work of the Taskforce by reporting fox sightings and any other evidence (unusual scats, den sites, stock kills) to the FOX HOTLINE 1300 FOX OUT (1300 369 688).

The Potential Threat to Tasmania's Wildlife

The fox represents the single most devastating threat to Tasmania's native mammals and birds. This island State is recognised as a national and international fauna haven due to the lack of foxes, but should the species become established here all of Tasmania's native land animals would be at risk.

Threatened and high conservation significance species at risk would include:

  • eastern barred bandicoot
  • Tasmanian bettong
  • long nosed potoroo
  • eastern quoll
  • southern brown bandicoot
  • long tailed mouse
  • velvet furred rat
  • New Holland mouse
  • hooded plover
  • little tern
  • fairy tern
  • ground parrot
  • ground thrush
  • painted button quail
  • great crested grebe
  • green and gold bell frog
  • tussock skink
  • glossy grass skink.

The Tasmanian pademelon and Tasmanian bettong, both of which thrive in Tasmania, are now extinct on the mainland because of the fox. The mainland eastern barred bandicoot has been reduced to a mere 200 surviving individuals because of the fox. The young of unique species such as the Tasmanian devil, spotted tail quoll that are left unattended in dens are highly vulnerable to fox predation.

More widespread species like ducks, shorebirds, ground nesting birds, blue tongue lizards, mountain dragons, skinks and frogs are all highly at risk.

Even animals such as the little penguin and platypus are at risk.

Additionally, foxes are carriers of disease and spread environmental weeds.

The Potential Threat to Tasmania's Agricultural Industry

Domestic poultry, sheep and lambs are targeted by foxes. Foxes can also carry diseases which impact upon both native wildlife and domestic stock. They are known carriers of distemper, parvovirus, canine hepatitus, heart worm, hydatids and sarcoptic mange. Indeed, it is believed that the individual fox which escaped from a container ship in Burnie in May 1998 had a 12% chance of carrying heart worm.

In Europe, the fox is the main carrier of rabies. Should rabies ever be introduced into Australia, foxes would likely be the main agent of its spread.

The Fox has Ravaged the Australian Mainland's Wildlife

The European Red Fox is recognised nationally as the single most devastating introduced pest and threat to Australia's native land animals. It has been listed as a National Threat on the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act 1992.

A national research and management effort is underway to investigate and trial biological and other forms of eradication. To date, there is no evidence that control measures have met with success in limiting the distribution or abundance of the fox. Introduced to mainland Australia in the 1850's, it is now widespread across every State except the tropical far north and Tasmania.

Australia's wildlife has not evolved in the presence of foxes, and therefore lacks adequate adaptations to cope with the predatory prowess of the fox. In Victoria, for example, the fox has established itself in all terrestrial environments from inner urban areas to alpine heaths, rainforests to coastal heaths and mallee. It is known to have caused the extinction of six mammals and is currently causing the near extinction of the:

  • eastern barred bandicoot
  • long footed potoroo
  • broad toothed rat
  • New Holland mouse
  • mountain pygmy possum
  • brushtailed rock wallaby
  • broad-shelled tortoise
  • malleefowl
  • hooded plover
  • little tern.