Fox and Rabbit Workshop Summary

This workshop explored options available for fox and rabbit control in peri-urban areas. The workshop presenters were Nicky Clark and Phil McGrath, Biosecurity Officers from South East Local Land Services and Alice McGlashan, a local small farmer.

A combination of management tools delivers the best results when it comes to managing feral animals. To manage rabbits and foxes, persistence and planning is required.

Fox Management and Trapping

Alice McGlashan showed us methods that she uses to ‘out fox a fox’ when it comes to soft jaw trapping combined with wildlife cameras. The benefit of soft jaw trapping is that non target species including your neighbours’ dog, possums and other wildlife can be released.

When deciding on where to focus your control program, a wildlife camera can be helpful. Foxes tend to use established pathways and young kits will follow adult paths even if the adult has been killed. You can use a trail camera to learn the favoured routes and pathways of the foxes so you know where to set the traps. This might include locations close to the tracks, chicken pens and adjacent to fences and gates. Once you have established their typical routes on your property, you can use the information to set fox traps in the same place in subsequent years.

Alice’s tips for buying a trail camera are – you get what you pay for, it is worth shopping around and USA sites will often be cheaper. There have been advances in camera technology over the past few years. A no-glow camera is essential. Do not buy a low glow/red glow camera because the light is visible and foxes are put off by the glow.

The use of soft jaw leg hold traps requires skill and training but the results can be good in peri-urban areas. The use of the traps is governed by legislation. The traps should be buried in soil or sand and disguised with surrounding leaf litter. Alice demonstrated laying a number of traps around a bait like a dead chicken or other meat. She suggested wearing gloves and minimising body contact with the ground and nearby objects to minimise the human scent left in the area. Ensure that the trap chains are secure. Once you have trapped the fox you can transfer to fox to a cage and cover the cage with a blanket. Local Land Services biosecurity officers are licensed to euthanise foxes or you can organise a local shooter.

Alice has published a guide to managing predators and trail cameras on her website Nest Box Tails, see the link below and download Alice’s notes on buying a wildlife camera.

Nest Box Tails Feral Predator Control

Nicky and Phil advised that Spring and Autumn are the best time to manage foxes. Options for control include laying 1080 baits, trapping and shooting. Other exclusion methods such as fencing and companion animals can be used but these methods were not discussed at this workshop. South East Local Land Services delivers training on the use of 1080 baits for fox control to minimise risk to other animals. If you use a 1080 baiting program it is essential that the baits are laid in the areas where foxes travel. Any uneaten baits must be picked up to avoid poisoning non-target species.

In NSW there is a Fox Control Pest Order and control programs are most effective when a number of neighbours in an area work together. According to the Department of Primary Industries, re-invasion by foxes can re occur within two to six weeks so ongoing planning and trapping over a number of years and in coordination with neighbours delivers the best results.

More information about managing foxes:
Principles of Pest Animal Management
Standard operating procedure for using soft jaw traps for foxes
Feral Scan Website

Rabbit Control

1080 and Pindone are toxins registered for rabbit control and are listed under the Pest Control Orders issued by the Environment Protection Agency. To use these baits you need to undertake training with Local Land Services. Contact your local office for more information.

Nicky and Phil suggest the following steps for effective rabbit control:

First reduce rabbit numbers using a bating program. A rabbit baiting program involves a pre-feeding routine so that the rabbits learn to eat the carrots before poisoned carrots are put out for one night. Where possible it is good to get a group of neighbours involved in a baiting program. Rabbits can move up to one kilometre from their warren. When they are 20-60 days old, young rabbits will disperse.

Poisoning of non-target species and secondary poisoning are both factors to consider when deciding on a baiting program.

Remove warrens and harbours. The removal of habitat is essential when managing rabbits. This includes the removal of fallen logs, rubbish and blackberries – anywhere that is providing burrow protection for the rabbits.  For warren ripping use an experienced contractor with tines up to 900mm long and rip no less than 50 cm apart.

Warren and harbour destruction guidelines.

Reassess rabbit numbers. Follow up with another control program that could include baiting, trapping or fumigation. If you decide to use a fumigant you can run a dog over the warrens so that all the rabbits go into the burrows before you start. The use of soft jaw traps is approved under legislation for rabbit control and can be effective once rabbit population are brought under control.

Calicivirus is part of the rabbit control story but many rabbit populations have developed resistance to the virus. According to Phil, the second release of the calicivirus only had a 20-40% knockdown effect. You can read more about the biological control of rabbits on the CSIRO website.

You can revegetate the area after ripping and baiting but you will need to monitor for rabbit activity. Of all the methods discussed above, fumigation poses the most risk to humans.

Useful websites for rabbit management:
Local Land Services Rabbit control Website
Uses and effects of 1080 poison
Soft jaw trapping of rabbits
NSW DPI Rabbit Control

This project received funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program.