Nick Mooney

Remember what Dr Sally Bryant said 5 years ago on scepticism about foxes in Tasmania: “The only thing we can be sure of is that by the time everyone is sure you can be sure its too late.”

THE failure of the person claiming to have run over the Cleveland Fox to identify themselves publicly (the Taskforce knows who they are) is entirely explicable as I have previously outlined in TT. (Foxes: How do you feel about taking that risk?)

They actually told us they don’t want to be ridiculed as was Mr. Bosworth — meaning they do not want the public rubbishing sceptics dished up to that chap and his companion. Why on earth would anyone voluntarily get up in front of that vitriol? To a degree David you criticise what you and other sceptics have created.

David thinks DPIW should “present” the witness. This would break their confidence — not our style, but if we did — guess where the criticism would come from. As far as “further suspicion” — what was the other supposed cause for suspicion with the Cleveland fox (beyond it being found!)?

David asks some useful questions re the Cleveland Fox (aka the Conara fox) and I’ll offer some comments.

1. Rigor mortis started during post mortem examination.
2. The fatal injuries are entirely consistent with being run over when alive by a heavy vehicle. Injuries to the fox per se cannot tell us it was killed on Glen Esk Rd.
3. The site was inspected, photographed, blood collected and analysed — it was fox.
4. Results from 9 scats found in the area are not back yet but most will likely be devil — these critters are denning adjacent to the highway there. A fox scat (confirmed by DNA) was found about 4km away in 2005 and Bosworth claimed to have shot ‘his’ fox about 20km away in 2001. It’s a general area of great concern.
5. The driver said he thought he saw a movement to the side before there was a bump and he checked finding the fox. He did not clearly see a live fox beforehand. He said he did not notice anything on the road ahead (ie a fox carcass) beforehand. Another driver passing about an hour earlier said he thought there was no fox carcass there then.

A few other points …

We have not changed estimates of fox numbers “every day”. The only estimate given (on radio by me) was draped with caveats and cautions and was clearly intended to give an order of magnitude. We have looked at road-kills in other areas with known numbers of foxes — that gives a minimum of about 50 for Tasmania and also at results of known amounts of spotlighting — that gives a maximum of about 50 but we might be very wrong. Rare animals are almost impossible to count accurately; sometimes even common animals. How many platypus do we have David (and the error bars too please) — or feral cats or barred bandicoots, animals you have intensely studied?

David might lightly dismiss the Bosworth fox — being wrong about that is of no consequence to him, but we can’t ignore a fox found with two Tasmanian endemics in it (long-tailed mouse and Tasmanian pademelon). Imagine the fuss if we did and guess from where! Wait all you like for the perfect, gold-plated Rolls Royce evidence; we don’t have that thumb-twiddling luxury and are obliged to follow the precautionary principle. We will only get one good shot at this (no pun intended) so forgive us if we take the very clear advice of the recent independent review by the IACRC and get on with things.

Remember what Dr Sally Bryant said 5 years ago on scepticism about foxes in Tasmania: “The only thing we can be sure of is that by the time everyone is sure you can be sure its too late.”

As I understand it, to claim David’s fox bounty the carcass has to be submitted within 12 hours of it being shot. Anywhere near that time and rigor mortis should have come and gone and body temperature would be useless to estimate time of death. David runs a chance of having more evidence that will not meet his “beyond reasonable doubt”. How Dave would deal with that will be most interesting, albeit predicatable.

There must be another Ian Rist writing in now — the one I’m familiar with vigorously criticises flirting with rumour, innuendo, hearsay and gossip.

Nick Mooney