Fox

Native to the northern hemisphere, the European red fox is 1 of 11 canid species worldwide. The fox was introduced to Australia from England as a sport animal during the 1860s and became a pest species within 30 years. Today, foxes are widespread throughout most of mainland Australia. Foxes threaten Australia’s agricultural and native species.

You can support a national fox mapping project by reporting fox populations.

Fox is a restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Vulpes vulpes

Description

  • Canid species with body 45-90cm long, bushy tail 30-55cm long.
  • Males weigh around 6kg, females around 5kg.
  • Muzzle is pointed.
  • Skull is flattened, slender.
  • Ears are large.

Habitat

  • Adaptable to variety of habitats, including deserts and urban environments such as inner-city areas, parklands and airports.
  • Less likely to be found in tropical areas.
  • Usually active at night and rests during day.

Distribution in Queensland

  • Widespread throughout most of Queensland.
  • Areas of north Queensland are the only parts of the state free of foxes.

Life cycle

  • Breeds annually over 2-3 weeks in early winter, with gestation period of 51-53 days.
  • Average litter size 4-10 pups.
  • High mortality rate for young foxes, with up to 80% dying in first year.
  • Most foxes live less than 4 years.

Affected animals

  • Small native marsupials ; Livestock; Poultry

Impacts

Economic

  • Preys on lambs and kids, inflicting significant impact on sheep and goat industries.
  • Occasionally damages irrigation systems and horticultural crops.

Environmental

  • Greatest threat to long-term survival of many small marsupial species in Australia.
  • Can significantly affect ground-nesting birds and turtles.

Social

  • Preys on small or young animals, lambs, poultry and livestock, despite an abundance of food.
  • Can spread diseases to domestic animals.

Control

  • Control methods include shooting, trapping, fencing, baiting, and livestock guardian dogs, combined with land management.

Shooting

  • Shooting is an opportunistic method, mostly used to control small populations or individual problem animals.

Trapping

  • Trapping is time-consuming and labour-intensive. Success using leg-hold traps and snares depends on operator's skill.
  • Effective when used as part of integrated approach.
  • Only padded or offset laminated jawed traps are acceptable.
  • May be used in conjunction with trap alert systems to ensure trapped foxes are attended to quickly.
  • Can be used on urban fringe.
  • Minimal impact on non-target species if used correctly.

Poisoning

  • Currently 2 poisons are legally available for fox control in Queensland: sodium fluoroacetate (1080) and strychnine.
  • 1080 poison baits are most economical and effective control method. Processed (FOXOFF®) or fresh meat baits can be laid quickly by hand, vehicle or from air, with population reductions of more than 90% recorded from some baiting campaigns.
  • 1080 poison baits can be obtained only through licensed Biosecurity Queensland officers.
  • Queensland Health permit is necessary to buy strychnine.

Guard animals

  • Guard dogs (primarily maremmas) and alpacas are used to protect sheep and goats from foxes in many countries, including Australia.

Exclusion fencing

  • Exclusion fencing is expensive, and fences must be well maintained due to foxes' agility and ability to squeeze through small holes. Fencing is most often used to protect high-value stock, poultry or wildlife from foxes in settled areas where other control methods cannot be used.
  • Consider secure poultry runs and night yards for small livestock in areas with foxes. Foxes can dig and climb so construct runs and yards with this in mind.

Legal requirements

  • Fox is a restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be kept, moved, fed, given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit.
  • The Act requires everyone to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).
  • At a local level, each local government must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in its area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

More information

Contact us

Call your local government office, or Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Last updated
19 August 2016