Above images of foxes predating on medium-sized mammals, mostly Mountain Brushtail Possums, were taken on Wal’s property. They prompted him to research feral animal control options including 1080 baiting.
Many of us are involved in ecological restoration work, and over the last 20 years Heather and I have made some real progress on the vegetation front on our relatively remote 25 ha property in the Gold Coast hinterland.
The theory is that with vegetation repair comes broader ecological repair with birds, insects, fungi, mammals and reptiles returning to once degraded sites.
Ten years ago I started working with spotter and catcher, Michael Dickinson. He set up cameras on our property to monitor feral animal activity. The images on this page are a small sample of the native fauna casualties that Mike has collected.
Clearly we had a major fox problem. The camera had highlighted something that we were totally unaware of. I suspect the problem is almost universal through the Gold Coast, and over much of Australia.
In 2007 the Land for Wildlife team within City of Gold Coast (Council) commissioned an ecological study of our property. In his conclusion the author commented that:
“The fauna recorded from the study area shows some noticeable trends. The mammal community lacks terrestrial species (e.g. macropods and murids*), indicating major impacts to this group. Although the terrestrial mammals are low in diversity, the arboreal species appear abundant.”
The study confirmed what the photos seemed to indicate. Foxes were vacuum cleaning our terrestrial fauna. In effect, by creating more habitat, we were creating a smorgasbord of food sources for foxes.
This was a real dilemma for us. Trapping was too dangerous for other animals and baiting would take out any chance of reintroducing quolls, which is a major long term goal of ours. Anyway that is what we thought. After ten years of inactivity we started researching 1080 bait and the trapping question in more detail. It is a complex decision, but on balance we have decided that baiting and trapping will be ecologically better for our property than doing nothing.
This decision was based on a number of factors:
- 1080 is not perfect but it is selective. Native Australian animals need to eat very large quantities to die. For instance a Spotted-tailed Quoll has nine times the relative resistance to 1080 than a fox. Field studies support this.
- 1080 was used to help eradicate foxes in the Flinders Ranges before the reintroduction of quolls.
- The proposition that Dingos will act as top predator and manage meso- predators such as foxes and cats is very much weakened by the genetic evidence that pure Dingos (that act like Dingos) are virtually non-existent.
- Soft-jaw foot traps we are using are relatively injury free and the use of scents instead of meat baits reduces the risk of off -target capture significantly.
Once the decision was made I started working with the Pest Management Unit within Council. I then got involved with The Gold Coast Hinterland Pest Management Group. This group is comprised of City
of Gold Coast, Seqwater, National Parks, Scenic Rim Regional Council, Biosecurity Queensland and three landcare groups. The group is a broad, well-run consortium of public and private sector members whose mission it is to manage pest animals and plants in a co-ordinated and large scale way. What impresses me about this group is that it is very action orientated and is achieving real results.
“Management of feral animals, particularly predators, are a critical part of restoring our ecosystems.”
Baiting and trapping is carried out to strict standards of safety and noti cation. Baits must be wired to the ground and buried 10 cm deep. They must be safely disposed of within one week. All residents within two kilometres of the property being baited must be informed at least three days before the event. Signs must mark all entries into a baited property. All bait users must sign o with the State Government for the use of 1080.
Weed control and habitat restoration are important first steps, however management of feral animals, particularly predators, are a critical part of restoring our ecosystems. We have chosen to trial baiting and trapping rather than witness the inevitable decline and possible local extinction of our terrestrial fauna.
* Macropods are large marsupials such as kangaroos, wallabies and pademelons. Murids are small mammals such as rats and mice.
Article by Wal Mayr Land for Wildlife member Mudgeeraba, Gold Coast