What are foxes?
The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) was introduced into Australia in the 1870s for recreational hunting. Within 20 years, populations had expanded to such an extent that the fox was declared a pest. Foxes are now found in all states and territories except Tasmania.
Why are foxes a pest?
Foxes are nocturnal and territorial. They are highly efficient hunters and resourceful scavengers and may kill more prey than they can consume. This is known as surplus killing behaviour.
Foxes are a pest animal because they:
- threaten biodiversity by hunting and killing native wildlife
- have contributed to the extinction of several species of small mammals and birds
- threaten livestock including poultry, lambs and goat kids
- may pose a health risk to humans and pets, through transmission of diseases such as distemper, parvo virus and mange.
The introduction of the red fox has contributed to regional declines and extinctions of a wide range of native animals, particularly among medium-sized ground-dwelling and semi-arboreal mammals, ground-nesting birds and freshwater turtles.
The spread of foxes across southern Australia in the late 1800s and early 1900s coincided with regional extinctions of several species of bettong, the greater bilby, numbat, bridled nail-tail wallaby and the quokka.
Many of these species persist only on islands or areas of the mainland where foxes are rare or absent.
Similarly, foxes have been linked to regional extinctions of 4 species of ground-nesting birds from western New South Wales and the decline of a further 7 such species.
Recent studies have shown that foxes continue to suppress populations of several species of rock-wallabies, the eastern grey kangaroo, brush-tailed bettong, long-nosed potoroo and the numbat. Several species of bandicoots, common brush-tail possum, common ringtail possum and the Murray River turtle are also affected. Numerous attempts to reintroduce threatened native fauna into areas of their former range have also failed because of foxes.
Predation by the European red fox has been listed as a key threatening process by the NSW Scientific Committee.
Managing foxes in our national parks
As foxes are widespread, management focuses on the reduction of impacts in priority areas. We prioritise fox control for the protection of biodiversity as identified in the NSW Fox Threat Abatement Plan 2010 (Fox TAP). Priorities recommended in the Fox TAP have now been incorporated into the Saving our Species (SOS) program.
Control methods include baiting, trapping and shooting. Read about our guidelines for fox control.