How are red foxes affected by cooperative aerial baiting to control wild dogs?

Lead researcher: Guy Ballard, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries,

Aerial baiting involves dropping 1080-injected red-meat baits from an aerial platform, e.g. a helicopter, along pre-approved transects to reduce the likelihood of livestock attacks by wild dogs. Variants of the technique are used in many parts of Australia but it is a key component of integrated wild dog (Canis familiaris) control programs in north eastern New South Wales.

Within that region wild dogs are commonly sympatric with red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and land managers have long suspected that red fox uptake of poisoned baits intended for wild dogs has a negative impact on fox populations. Given that the latter are a significant pest for livestock producers (Saunders & McLeod 2007) and their predation is considered to be a Key Threatening Process for native fauna (DEWR, 1999), negative impacts of wild dog baiting on foxes has often been considered a tolerable, even welcome, bonus.

However, as the distribution of wild dog activity has increased in recent years, so too have concerns that red fox consumption of wild dog baits could be reducing the efficacy of wild dog control efforts, especially where relatively low baiting rates are employed. Understanding the impact of aerial baiting on red fox populations and reciprocal impact of red foxes’ uptake of baits on the efficacy of wild dog control is necessary to improve decision making for planning and implementing wild canid management programs.  

The objectives of this project were to:

  1. Assess the impact of aerial baiting undertaken to control wild dogs on:
    1. the abundance of a known population of red foxes, and
    2. red fox activity within baited areas
  1. Assess the impact of fox ‘predation’ on the availability of aerial baits targeted at wild dogs
  2. Widely disseminate results to inform wild dog and fox management efforts across Australia

A journal article is being prepared and a web link will be provided to the manuscript when published.

This project was funded under the Australian Pest Animal Research Program (APARP).
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Author Australian Pest Animal Research Program (APARP)
Secondary Author Guy Ballard
Institution NSW Department of Primary Industries
Control method 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate)
Region NSW