Ninety-five per cent of baits intended for feral foxes are taken by native species including quokkas a Murdoch University researcher has found.
Postdoctoral research fellow Shannon Dundas from Murdoch’s School of Veterinary and Life Sciences used cameras and regular visits to monitor seven sites in southwestern Australia that were ground-baited at high densities on a monthly basis over nine months.
Dr Dundas found that 99 per cent of camera monitored baits were taken by species other than foxes, with 95 per cent taken by native fauna and five per cent taken by introduced pigs and black rats.
Only a single monitored bait was taken by a fox, the target species of the baiting program.
“Foxes are present in the baited areas but the issue is that non-target species are consuming baits shortly after distribution, reducing the opportunities for foxes to find and consume baits,” Dr Dundas said.
“Baits did not last very long in the environment, with 62 per cent of the 299 baits monitored taken on or before the first night after distribution, and 95 per cent of baits taken within seven days.”
Dr Dundas said the poison compound used in WA in fox baits (commonly known as 1080) is found naturally in native Western Australian plant species.
She said 1080 was the most appropriate poison in WA because introduced species were more sensitive to its effects than native species.
“Many native species in Western Australia have high tolerances to 1080 poison, so even though they may consume multiple 1080 baits, it is highly unlikely they can consume enough poison for a lethal dose,” she said.
Dr Dundas added that the costs and labour associated with baiting can be substantial.
She called for further research into how the baits could better target foxes and reduce interference by non-target species.
“Further studies of fox behaviour and movements in baited forest areas with the use of GPS collars would provide valuable information and could help to direct baits more specifically to foxes,” she said.
“Additionally, alternative approaches could be trialled, such as changing the bait presentation to make it less accessible to native species, or altering bait attractiveness or type to more specifically target foxes.”