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Fox Hunting in Australia

Angela Maiden Fox Hunting Leave a Comment

Foxes were introduced into Australia as early as 1833 and to the Port Phillip district and Sydney around 1845, this was for the purpose of sport hunting. With in 30 years they had become a pest. Current estimates have the population at 6.2 million across mainland Australia covering around 75 percent of the continent. The spread of foxes in Australia has been closely linked to the spread of rabbits. There has been evidence of foxes in Tasmania since 2010, and areas in Northern Australia where dingos are prevalent they are less common.



The Spread of Foxes

The spread of foxes in Australia has impacted in the decline in the populations of several medium sized mammals, including Bilbies, Numbats, and Quokkas. They had a major affect on the extinction of the desert Rat-kangaroo. Most of these species are now isolated to Areas(islands) where foxes are rare or are present. It is estimated they cost the environment around $190 million per year. Foxes are now declared as one of the most damaging invasive species in Australia.

Foxes are a solitary by nature, but in some areas they have been witnessed working in groups. They also work with in a home range travelling up to 10-15 km per night. They show social behaviour while rearing pups and during the breeding season which is 2-3 weeks in early winter. Foxes gestation is around 52 days, with a litter size of 4-10 pups. There is a high mortality rate in the first year (80%) and have a life span of around four years.

Agricultural Impact of Foxes

Foxes have a large negative impact on the agricultural sector in Australia with the estimated cost of $17.5 million per year. With most of this comes from stock losses. In south Eastern Australia it is estimated up to 5.3 percent of lambs lost are due to foxes and in more arid areas such as Western NSW it can be up to 30 percent. So the losses to agriculture must include other factors such as genetic gains and the time spent on the control of fox numbers.

From my recent travels around Australia the highest populations I have watched are in southern Queensland with groups of foxes feeding on road kill along the road sides. It has been recorded that the densities of foxes in cities of 3-16 per square kilometre and are considerably higher than on farm land, where in central Victoria it is estimated at 4 per square kilometre.



Identifying Fox Kills

The ability to identify fox Acts/killings is usually by the multiple bites around the face and neck. Sometimes foxes only eat a small portion of the carcass especially on poultry, they also chew feathers off and not pluck them. They also attack cows that are having trouble calving chewing off teats and valvas. On some animals they open the chest cavity and eat the internal organs. Any animal up to 5.5 kg is a target for foxes, they have been known to eat fruits and insects, on average a fox consumes 400 grams per day which equates to 150 kg per year.

Fox Diseases

Foxes carry the same diseases as dogs so can transfer between wild and domestic populations. Mange and distemper are the two main affecting fox populations. There is also a worry if rabies comes to Australia they would spread the disease very fast due to the high density of the populations.

Control of Foxes

The control of foxes is mostly due to 1080 biting programs and the shooting at night when foxes are most active. Foxes usually hide in dens during the day and actively hunt at night, they usually return to points of interest regularly on a nightly basis or several times a night.



Attracting Foxes

Foxes can be attracted by whistle during the day, this sound mimics the sound of a distressed rabbit. The use of dogs to flash foxes out can also be used. Both these techniques are great when there high populations and when dens are located in under growth along river banks or marginal areas of land.

Most foxes are shot on private land due to the impact in agriculture and where there is a common food source. It is legal to hunt foxes in all states. With any hunting remember to check the current state laws before heading out.

Foxes in Victoria

In Victoria there is currently a bounty on foxes, this is for the entire scalp and the government offers $10 for all land holders and residents. Check for local collection schedules and points, most are open for 2 hours every four weeks.



Conclusion

When shooting foxes they can be taken with a 22 rimfire or 22 MAG, but I would rather use a centrefire rifle such as a 222 or 22-250 as it gives a flatter trajectory and higher projectile energy. This also gives a range of over 100 metres which is great for the more hesitate foxes out there. Always have the land holders consent before hunting on their land. Most farmers are happy to reduce the fox numbers, just do it in a safe manner away from other stock.

With all hunting make sure you have a current firearms licence and understand the current states regulations.

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