Gunning Feral Fox Program

A project of Gunning and District Landcare- Championed by Lucy Knight and Jennifer Heffernan

Jenifer Heffernan and Lucy Knight are the faces behind a district-wide fox baiting program which they have been co-ordinating for the past two years, in conjunction with Gunning District Landcare, the Local Land Services officers, and local landholders. Jenifer and Lucy are sheep farmers and also mothers of young children, who they strive to empower with an appreciation of the environment through education, interaction and conservation.

Sheep farmers feel the impact of foxes financially, but foxes also have a detrimental impact on the natural environment as well, eating native birds and animals, spreading weeds such as blackberries and carrying diseases. The fox is an introduced pest that recognises no boundaries, and is listed as a Key Threatening Process affecting over 90 native species, particularly grass-dwelling birds and reptiles. The use of 1080 bait is, as yet, the only effective control we have, and it is much more effective when used across a wide area in a strategic and co-ordinated manner. Currently baiting is scheduled to take place twice per year, within one week. Extra baiting can be carried out other times if desired. The group would also like to schedule a further baiting week in early summer as well.

The program utilised Landcare group co-ordinators already in place to put together a program that covered most of the Gunning District Landcare remit, and concentrating on areas where little or no baiting was being carried out. Thousands of emails have sent been sent out by Lucy and Jeni. Information flyers are circulated with local newsletters; media releases and letterbox drops are other ways the group reaches people. One of the challenges has been to reach absentee landholders and also cattle farmers, who do not feel the impact of foxes as dramatically as sheep graziers.

The program includes the promotion and hosting of free training sessions run by LLS on the issue and use of 1080/Pindone poisons. Integrity, safety and credibility are paramount, and authorisation of the issue of the baits by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and the pesticides control order are strictly adhered to.

Results from the Autumn 2016 program saw a total of 16 groups with 171 landholders participating to put out 5405 baits and this has increased now to 17 groups involving 373 participants distributing 11476 meat baits in 2017. Locally, landholders have reported increased lambing survival and fewer fox sightings. Other districts are now interested in adopting the same model and the group are looking forward to sharing their knowledge and experience with neighbouring groups as well as extending their activities to include a robust monitoring component.  

Here is a short video about the fox fighters program