So, are there foxes in Tasmania? After a decade, and tens of millions of dollars, spent trying to rid the island of them, there is still no agreement that there were foxes there in the first place. Sam Bungey investigates for THE GLOBAL MAIL
Bob Judd’s dog, a blue heeler kelpie cross, spotted it first. From the verandah of his South Hobart home, Judd saw the red, bushy tail explode out of the long grass as his hound pursued the animal from the front yard into a nearby paddock.
Judd’s dog lost the animal in the grass, which was particularly high that October in 2010, following a long dry spell. So Judd didn’t get a great look at its body. But he had encountered enough foxes growing up on a farm in South Australia to know what it was he saw. That bushy tail was unmistakable.
“This was a bloody fox, believe me,” Judd says.
Nick Mooney, who is the longtime public interlocutor for Tasmania’s Fox Eradication Program (FEP), believes that if foxes establish in Tasmania, it will be the worst thing to happen here ecologically “since the ice age.”
There are five or six calls about sightings like Judd’s made each week to the FEP’s dedicated fox hotline, and the program’s 47 staff take them all seriously. Over the past decade they have fielded almost 3,000 calls and, though no-one at the program has ever photographed, caught or shot a live fox on the island, they are convinced foxes exist here in low numbers, a ticking time bomb for Tasmania’s ecology.
Then there are people who take none of it seriously, such as Ian Rist, a Tasmanian hunter and outspoken critic of the …
• Ed: After years of trying to get Tasmanian (give up early there) and Australian journalists interested in a proper investigation of foxes in Tasmania? … finally a journo has picked up the toxic (de)bait … Onya Sam!