Welcome to the online home of Mister Fox. We’re a collective of independent researchers and advocates investigating new ways to manage Australia’s red fox problem. Operating at a local grassroots level, we aim for practical yet humane solutions to restoring the equilibrium of Australia’s delicate ecological landscape.
What’s the problem with red foxes?
European red foxes are not native to Australia, and are considered an invasive species. Their impact on delicate local ecosystems is significant, with a number of native rodent and marsupial populations having become extinct or endangered as a result. Prominently, these include species from the Potoroidae family, such as the now extinct including desert rat-kangaroo, plus mid-sized ground mammals such as bettongs, bilbies, bandicoots quokkas and quolls. Ground-nesting birds and reptiles have also been susceptible.
In addition, red foxes prey on poultry, lambs and other livestock, which has costly effects on local agricultural industries.
What features of red foxes make them problematic?
Red foxes are among the largest carnivorous land mammals in Australia, second only to wild dogs. An omnivorous, opportunistic predator and scavenger, the red fox is able to function as an apex predator in a wide variety of habitats and climates – especially those (like Australia) in which there are relatively few competitors for this ecological niche. Fox populations are less prevalent and stable in areas with Tasmanian devil or dingo populations.
How did the red fox end up in Australia?
The red fox was introduced British colonial settlers as early as the 1830s. This was done deliberately in order to enable fox hunting, a traditional (now controversial) English sporting activity. The concurrent introduction of rabbits during the 1800s, also for sport hunting purposes, is thought to have aided the spread of the foxes, with rabbit populations serving as a key source of prey. Like foxes, rabbits are considered an invasive pest species in Australia.
What has been done to fix the problem?
Australia’s fox problem is difficult to reverse. Due to the behavioural habits of foxes, such as hunting nocturnally and denning, local attempts at eradication have proved unsuccessful. Management to limit the growth of populations is therefore the primary course of action being taken, typically through the use of baits containing 1080 – a toxin to which foxes are much more susceptible than native animals are.