Foxes are an introduced predator that take a massive toll on native and migratory water birds of the Gippsland lakes. The fox is listed in the World Conservation Union’s list of the 100 worst invasive species.
The economic impact of foxes in Australia has been estimated at around $227.5 million per year. This includes $17.5 million in sheep production losses, $190 million in environmental impacts and $16 million in management costs. According to agriculture Victoria, any large-scale reduction in fox numbers could create significant environmental and economic benefit.
In 2017, through funding from the Victorian State Government, Trust for Nature trialed a combined approach for landscape fox control.
According to Trust for Nature Project Manager, Robyn Edwards, the aim of the project was to reduce fox numbers to improve breeding success and increase the population of water birds, grounding nesting birds and small mammals in the project area.
“The project site was 6,750ha of Blond Bay Reserve and adjoining farmland,” said Ms Edwards.
“We undertook a baiting program in Blond Bay and then through community incentives encouraged landholder to control foxes on their land.
“This was to make sure we reduced the chances of foxes recolonizing the Blond Bay Reserve.”
Blond Bay was chosen as the focus area for the program because it has significant wetlands and lake frontage. It is the largest lake frontage reserve between Lakes Entrance and the Perry River.
“Some of the animals found in the Blond Bay area include the vulnerable Latham Snipe and Greenshank, lace monitors, emus and possums,” explained Ms Edwards
“Fox surveys were taken pre and post works and we found over a 65% reduction in the number of foxes after the baiting and incentive program.
“We were very surprised at the high number of foxes found – on average you could expect to see almost four foxes for every kilometer – this was much higher than expected.
“The program removed almost 200 foxes from the area which will have huge benefits for native wildlife in the areas.
“Foxes wreak havoc amongst nesting shorebirds and resting migratory birds so by reducing the amount of foxes in this important area we are giving these birds a much better chance of survival.
“Some of these birds are flying from as far away as Japan and Siberia. It’s devastating to think that they can survive such an amazing trip only to be decimated by foxes once they reach the Gippsland Lakes,” continued Ms Edwards.
This trial at Blonde Bay Reserve is now complete, but fox control works continue through works by other agencies including Parks Victoria and Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation.
This project was funded by the Victorian State Government for the Health of the Gippsland Lakes.