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This program began in September 2004 in the Milton/Ulladulla region of New South Wales when concerns were raised about the number of foxes in the area (see Figure 1, map of program location).
A community meeting of all stakeholders was held to discuss the best approach to managing the fox problem.
The main issues identified were predation of native animals and livestock (particularly shorebirds, poultry and children’s pets), nuisance value in local caravan parks and public parks (raiding of garbage bins), and disease transmission.
The program area consisted mainly of small rural, peri-urban and urban holdings with ocean on the eastern side and forested escarpment (national parks and state forests) on the western side.
In the rural areas, agriculture mainly involved dairy and cattle production. Other enterprises included horse studs, horticulture or plantations, hobby farms and commercial enterprises such as bed-and-breakfasts.
The program was designed to reflect New South Wales’ fox threat abatement plan and to provide integrated pest management through interagency support and landholder cooperation. It ran until March 2009, when funding ran out and further support was not available.
Group fox shooting programs can be an effective alternative to baiting if correctly done
The project aimed to:
Partners in this program were the South East Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA), the Shoalhaven and Milton Rural Landcare groups, Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority (SRCMA), the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), Shoalhaven Council, the RSPCA and individual landholders.
A management committee with representatives from the Landcare groups, SRCMA, OEH, Shoalhaven Council, the RSPCA and community members met several times a year to oversee the program.
The LHPA coordinated and ran the program’s day-to-day business. Responsibilities included contacting landholders and collecting their consent forms, employing the professional shooter, collating monitoring data and reporting to the management committee and funding bodies.
Funding for the program was sourced from the National Landcare Program and the SRCMA. Some funding for the landholder questionnaires was received from the Natural Heritage Trust through the Department of Primary Industries NSW.
Potential tension within the community was avoided by choosing a control method (shooting) that was acceptable to both rural and urban landholders
Shooting was the main method used for culling — a group 1080-baiting program was not feasible because of the small nature of many holdings, the proximity of dwellings in the area, and the anti-baiting sentiment of many of the locals. Traps were laid for evasive foxes and in areas where it would be inappropriate to shoot.
A professional shooter was hired for the entire program, which was divided into two main areas (see Figure 1). The first area covered about 2500 ha around Lake Conjola/ Croogyar Creek, north of Milton, and was focused on during the spring of each year.
The second area covered about 6000 ha south of the first area down to Burrill Lake (just south of Ulladulla) and was focused on during the autumn of each year. Each control effort ran for about six weeks.
The LHPA ranger initially sent a letter to all landholders in the area to explain the program and obtain their consent to participate. The program was also publicised in local media.
Landholders who were interested in participating returned the appropriate documents to the LHPA office. Those who chose not to participate were encouraged to conduct their own fox control at the same time as the group program.
An induction day was held before the program began so landholders could meet the people involved and discuss any queries or concerns.
The shooter notified each landholder directly when he would be working on their property. When the program was over, the results were reported back to the participating landholders.
Fox abundance was monitored before and after the program using spotlight counts. Foxes were counted over three consecutive nights along the same route by the LHPA ranger using a white spotlight and 4WD vehicle.
Data on changes in fox impact (eg livestock data and observations on native animal abundance) were collated via a landholder questionnaire in 2005 and 20061.
Community ownership of the program led to increased support from the full range of landholders in the area
This program used shooting as the main control technique, coordinating with surrounding baiting programs conducted by Forests NSW and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Training in the use of leg-hold traps and the hire of trapping kits were offered to interested landholders as part of the program. Landholders were able to meet the people involved in the program and discuss any queries and concerns.
Pestsmart Toolkit for European foxes
Invasive Animals Ltd has taken care to validate the accuracy of the information at the date of publication [September 2011]. This information has been prepared with care but it is provided “as is”, without warranty of any kind, to the extent permitted by law.