Fox Evidence 2001 - 2011

The following reports provide description of the physical evidence of fox activity collected in Tasmania during 2000 to 2011. Reports are arranged in chronological order based on the date that the confirmation of results was received.

Visit the Fox Evidence Update page for recent evidence updates.

2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001



Fox Evidence 2011


December 2011: Fox positive scat collected from Lillico

Results received on Friday 25 November 2011 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that one (1) scat tested positive for fox DNA.

Lillico (1)
Scat was collected near Lillico on 16 August 2010 during strategic den search activities along the North West Coast. The scat was found near railway tracks during sign searching between Lillico and Don Heads.

Lillico is located on Tasmania's north west coast approximately 6km north west of the Devonport CBD.

Other physical evidence of fox activity has previously been collected in this immediate area. A fox positive scat was collected approximately 2 km away near Forth on 24 March 2010 during Phase 3 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey (also known as 'The Great Poo Hunt'). A fox carcass (identified as a juvenile animal, sex indeterminate) was collected near Lillico in February 2006.


August 2011: Fox positive scat collected from Spreyton

Results received on Thursday 14 April from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that a scat (1) has tested positive for fox DNA.

Spreyton (1)
Scat was collected near Spreyton on 26 February 2010 during investigations in the area (with scat detector dog support) in response to a fox sighting report received from a member of the public.

Spreyton is located on Tasmania's north west coast approximately 4 km from the Devonport CBD.

The scat received a 'sit' response from the detector dog on site and all detector dogs reacted to the scat during screening for analysis prioritisation. Initial testing of the scat detected no mammalian DNA in the sample. However, subsequent to this analysis a refinement of DNA analysis procedures was made as a result of work undertaken during analysis of scats in the Scat Degradation Study (refer 'Eradicate' Issues 2 and 4). In light of the strength of detector dog response to this particular scat a re-test was requested using the enhanced procedure (altered dilution of samples). Re-testing of the sample produced a fox DNA positive result.

The release of this result was delayed while the opportunities provided by this development in analytical procedure were being assessed. To date, approximately 20% of scats collected and analysed have returned a 'no mammalian DNA detected' result via the earlier analysis procedure. Retesting is now planned for scats from two specific categories that have returned 'no mammalian DNA detected results':

(1) samples collected from non-core fox habitat; and,
(2) samples collected during post-bait monitoring behind baiting fronts.

The current scat was collected from identified core fox habitat. Six (6) other fox positive scats have been collected in the Spreyton area (all collected between October 2007 and June 2008). Genotyping analysis has identified two individual foxes in this sample (one male and one animal of indeterminate sex). Attempts to genotype the current scat are ongoing.



Fox Evidence 2010


December 2010: Fox positive scat collected from Forth region

Results received on Wednesday 8 December from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that a scat (1) collected east of Forth, in the north of the State, has tested positive for fox DNA.

Forth (1)
The scat was collected on 24 March 2010 during Phase 3 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey.

The Forth scat was collected approximately 2 km south of Lillico Beach, the site of an identified fox carcass collected in 2006. Other fox positive scats collected from this region include 6 fox positive scats that have been collected in the Spreyton Region through investigations following sighting reports in 2007 and 2008.

This is the only fox positive scat to be identified from Phase 3 of the Scat Collection Survey. Phase 2 resulted in 12 scats being identified as fox positive while 6 fox positive scats were identified from Phase 1.


May 2010: Fox positive scats confirmed from Mt Seymour, Melton Mowbray, Judbury, North Bruny Island and Ranelagh

Results received on Thursday 27 May 2010 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that five (5) scats have tested positive for fox DNA.

Mt Seymour (1)
Scat collected on 21 April 2009 during Phase 2 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey.

Mt Seymour is located 15 km southeast of Oatlands and east of Lake Tiberias.

Melton Mowbray (1)
Scat collected on 22 April 2009 during Phase 2 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey.

Melton Mowbray is located 28 km southwest of Oatlands and 53 km north of Hobart.

Judbury (1)
Scat collected on 27 May 2009 during Phase 2 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey.

Judbury is located 47 km southwest of Hobart and is situated along the Huon River.

North Bruny Island (1)
Scat collected on 21 May 2009 during Phase 2 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey.

North Bruny Island is located 47 km south of Hobart and east of Kettering.

Ranelagh (1)
Scat collected on 13 May 2009 during Phase 2 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey.

Ranelagh is located 37 km southwest of Hobart and is situated along the Huon River.

All scats are from areas identified as core fox habitat.


March 2010: Fox positive scat confirmed from Oatlands (central Tasmania)
Results received on Tuesday 23 March 2010 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that one (1) scat has tested positive for fox DNA.

Oatlands (1)
Scat was collected near Oatlands on 24 March 2009 during Phase 2 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey.

Oatlands is located approximately halfway between Hobart and Launceston on the Midland Highway, and is one of Tasmania's oldest settlements.

The scat was collected from a region of identified core fox habitat. Four (4) other fox positive scats have been collected from within a 15 km radius of the current scat:

2 x fox positive scats from Oatlands: collected 4 March 2008 and 26 July 2007
2 x fox positive scats from Tunbridge: collected 25 March 2009 and 8 May 2008

A fox positive scat (1) has also been collected from Interlaken, approximately 30 km northwest of the current scat location. No DNA genotyping data has yet been obtained for any fox positive scats from this region.

Seven (7) fox positive scats have now been identified from Phase 2 of the Scat Collection Survey (Interlaken, Tunbridge, Campania, Geeveston, Bushy Park, Murdunna and Oatlands).


March 2010: Fox positive scat confirmed from Murdunna (southern Tasmania)
Results received on Friday 19 March 2010 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that one (1) scat collected in the Murdunna area has tested positive for fox DNA.

Murdunna - Forestier Peninsula (1)
Scat was collected near Murdunna on 28 April 2009 during Phase 2 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey. The scat was found on top of a sheep carcass.

Murdunna is located halfway down the Forestier Peninsula (southeast Tasmania) and is approximately 40 km east of Hobart (as the crow flies).

The scat was collected from a region of identified core fox habitat but physical evidence of fox activity had not previously been collected in this general area. The nearest physical evidence to the current site was collected from Campania (approximately 50 km away, as the crow flies), where a fox positive scat was collected on 11 March 2009.


February 2010: Fox positive scat confirmed from Carrick (northern Tasmania)
Results received on Thursday 25 February 2010 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that one (1) scat has tested positive for fox DNA.

Carrick (1)
Scat collected on 05 August 2009 during investigations in the area in response to fox sighting and activity reports received from members of the public.

Carrick is located in northern Tasmania and is approximately 15 km southwest of Launceston.

Physical evidence of fox activity has previously been collected in this general area, which is within a large region of identified core fox habitat. Most recently three (3) fox positive scats were collected near Longford during 2008. Two of these scats were identified (from DNA genotyping analysis) as being from two (2) separate male foxes. Genotyping of DNA from the most recent fox positive scat will now be attempted.

A 1080 fox baiting program was carried out in the Carrick-Cressy area (covering approximately 10,000ha) during July-September 2008.


Fox skull collected near Interlaken
Fox skull found near Interlaken by member of the public
February 2010: Skull collected near Interlaken identified as fox skull through DNA testing
Results received on Friday 05 February 2010 from the Australian Museum in Sydney report that a skull collected in Tasmania has been identified as a fox skull through DNA analysis.

The skull was collected by a member of the public and submitted to a Fox Eradication Program (FEP) Field Officer in July 2009. No lower jaw was collected. The person who collected the skull indicated that it was found in the Interlaken area some time between December 2008 and March 2009. A subsequent search by FEP Investigators, Scat Dog Teams and Field Staff (in October 2009) of the general area in which the skull was found did not locate any additional evidence of fox activity.

DNA analysis was undertaken after physical examination by several experts was unable to differentiate if the skull came from a fox or dog. Fox skulls are very similar in appearance to some dog skulls, as the species are both members of the canid family. The variety of sizes and shapes of the domestic dog skull means that there is no simple measurement or feature to separate them from fox skulls; definitive identification can only be made through DNA analysis.

Imagery of fox skulls can be found on the Digimorph website, a dynamic archive of information on digital morphology and high-resolution X-ray computed tomography of biological specimens. Visit www.digimorph.org

The confirmation of the skull being from a fox follows the collection of a fox positive scat (1) in the Interlaken area on 05 May 2009. No DNA genotype has yet been obtained for this scat or any other fox positive scats collected in the region: Tunbridge (2 scats), Oatlands (2 scats) and Conara (1 scat).

The Interlaken area was the focus of monitoring operations during 2009 as a result of physical evidence of fox activity and credible public sighting reports being received from the region. A fox baiting program (covering 255 sq km) was completed in the Tunbridge-Interlaken area in April-May 2009.

Interlaken is located between Lake Sorell and Lake Crescent and is approximately 100 km north of Hobart. The nearest major town is Oatlands, which is approximately 25 km southeast of Interlaken.


January 2010: Latest evidence indicates widespread fox activity in Southern Tasmania
Results received on Thursday 24 December 2009 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that three (3) scats have tested positive for fox DNA.

Campania (1)
Scat collected on 11 March 2009 during Phase 2 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey.

Campania is located 25 km north of Hobart and is near the historic town of Richmond.

Geeveston (1)
Scat collected on 24 March 2009 during Phase 2 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey.

Geeveston is located 50 km southwest of Hobart on the western side of the Huon River.

Bushy Park (1)
Scat collected on 31 March 2009 during Phase 2 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey.

Bushy Park is located 40 km northwest of Hobart and is near Mt Field National Park.

All scats are from locations where no previous evidence of fox activity had been collected but where public fox sighting and activity reports have been received. All areas are scheduled to be targeted with fox baiting programs under Stage 2 of the Fox Eradication Program.

Five (5) fox positive scats have now been identified from Phase 2 of the Scat Collection Survey (Interlaken, Tunbridge, Campania, Geeveston and Bushy Park).



Fox Evidence 2009


December 2009: Genotyping analysis of fox positive scats collected in Tasmania identifies a further five individual foxes
Results received on Thursday 26 November 2009 from the Wildlife Forensics Laboratory at the University of Western Australia report DNA genotyping has identified a further five individual foxes from the analysis of fox positive scat samples collected in Tasmania. DNA analysis demonstrated that one fox was female (absence of testis determining gene) and four foxes were male (see Table 1 below).

The female fox was identified during testing of DNA samples recently supplied to the Wildlife Forensics Laboratory. The four male foxes were identified during re-analysis of DNA samples that had previously yielded incomplete data.

No recaptures were recorded among these latest samples and all foxes are new individuals, distinct from the ten foxes previously identified through DNA genotyping analysis (July 2009: Further results from genotyping analysis of fox positive scats collected in Tasmania).

Table 1. Details of five individual foxes identified from fox positive scat samples collected in Tasmania.
Date scat collectedLocationGenderUnique genotype
05-Oct-09Wesley ValeFemaleYes
16-Jun-08LongfordMaleYes
03-Jun-08LongfordMaleYes
07-May-08BarringtonMaleYes
21-Feb-08Hawley BeachMaleYes

Forty-three (43) fox positive scats collected by the Fox Eradication Program (FEP) since 2006 have now undergone genotyping analysis. Results have not been able to be obtained for twenty-eight (28) of those samples.

The total number of foxes identified from scat samples collected in Tasmania is now fifteen (15), including nine (9) males, four (4) females and two (2) gender unknown.

It is important to note that, as per previous results from genotyping analysis, these results are not new evidence but represent further analysis of the fox positive scats already collected.


November 2009: Further fox positive scats confirmed from Wesley Vale and Tunbridge
Results received on Thursday 12 November 2009 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that two (2) scats have tested positive for fox DNA.

Wesley Vale (1)
Collected on 05 October 2009 during a sighting report investigation by an Investigator with support from a Scat Detector Dog Team. The scat received a positive 'sit' response from the detector dog and received priority analysis at the University of Canberra.

The scat was collected from a site approximately 3km north-west of the previous Wesley Vale fox positive scat, which was collected on 06 May 2009 (during a sighting report investigation with support from a detector dog team).

Wesley Vale is located approximately 7 km east of Devonport on the northwest coast of Tasmania.

Tunbridge (1)
Scat collected on 25 March 2009 during Phase 2 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey. This scat is the second fox positive scat confirmed from Phase 2 of the survey.

The scat was collected from a site approximately 9 km west of the previous Tunbridge fox positive scat, which was collected on 08 May 2008 (during Phase 1 of the Scat Collection Survey) and 26 km east of the Interlaken fox positive scat, which was collected on 05 May 2009 (during Phase 2 of the Scat Collection Survey).

Tunbridge is located approximately 100 km north of Hobart between Oatlands and Ross in the central midlands of Tasmania.

The Wesley Vale and Tunbridge-Interlaken areas have been targeted with recent detection and eradication operations by the Fox Eradication Program.


September 2009: Fox positive scat confirmed from Interlaken
Results received on Friday 25 September 2009 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that one (1) scat collected in the Interlaken area has tested positive for fox DNA.

Interlaken (1)
Collected on 05 May 2009 during Phase 2 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey. This scat is the first fox positive scat confirmed from Phase 2 of the survey (which was undertaken in southern Tasmania in autumn 2009).

No physical evidence of fox activity had previously been collected in this immediate area, however fox positive scats have been collected from three nearby locations: one (1) fox positive scat was collected near Tunbridge in May 2008 (approximately 35 km from latest scat), one (1) fox positive scat was collected near Conara in March 2008 (approximately 37 km from latest scat) and two (2) fox positive scats were collected near Oatlands in March 2008 and July 2007 (both approximately 30 km from latest scat).

The Interlaken area has been a recent focus for monitoring operations of the Fox Eradication Program as a result of highly credible public sighting reports from the region and proximity to other physical evidence of fox activity. A fox baiting program (covering 255 sq km) was completed in the Tunbridge-Interlaken area in April/May this year.

Interlaken is located between Lake Sorell and Lake Crescent and is approximately 100 km north of Hobart. The nearest major town is Oatlands, which is approximately 25 km southeast of Interlaken.


September 2009: Further results from dietary analysis of fox positive scats collected in Tasmania
Results received from Barbara Triggs on Monday 31 August 2009 report the dietary analysis of a further 5 fox positive scats previously collected in Tasmania (see Table 1 below).

Dietary analysis uses undigested tissue such as foot pads, hair, teeth, claws and bone found in scats to identify the type of animal that was eaten. The latest results identify at least four mammal prey items from five fox positive scats analysed.

It is important to note that these results show only contents that were able to be positively identified by Barbara Triggs in each scat. It is likely that other prey items were also present but unable to be identified. The Fox Eradication Program is currently undertaking analysis to try an identify some of the non-mammalian materials in the scats.

Table 1. Materials identified from dietary analysis of a further five fox positive scat samples collected in Tasmania.

Collection locationCollection datePositive mammal IDOther material
Derby20-May-08House mouse, black ratInsect material
Stowport (Burnie)16-Feb-09House mouseInsect and plant material
Wesley Vale06-May-09European red fox hairsPlant material
Cygnet16-Jun-09Bennett's (red-necked) wallaby
Cygnet16-Jun-09European rabbit, macropod hairs

The dietary analysis emphasises the diet adaptability of foxes, with the remains of native wildlife, introduced mammals, insect and plant material being identified. One scat also contained fox hairs, which Barbara Triggs indicates are likely to have been swallowed by the fox during grooming.

Combined with the DNA genotyping analysis, a much better understanding of the foxes in Tasmania is now being obtained. The Fox Eradication Program obtains dietary analysis for all fox positive scats that are collected in Tasmania to gain as much information as possible from the physical evidence collected.

Thirty-nine (39) fox positive scats have now had dietary analysis completed.

Barbara Triggs is a nationally recognised expert in mammalian trace identification and the author of the award winning Mammal Tracks and Signs field guide.


August 2009: Fox positive scats confirmed from Cygnet
Results received on Monday 17 August 2009 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that two (2) scats collected from near Cygnet (southern Tasmania) have tested positive for fox DNA.

Cygnet (2)
Collected on 16 June 2009 during follow up investigations in response to a number of public sighting reports received from the area. The scats were collected from two locations approximately 450 m apart during sign searching activities by a Fox Eradication Program Investigator and Field Officer.

Cygnet is located approximately 55 km southwest of Hobart and is the furthest south that fox activity has been confirmed in Tasmania.


July 2009: Further results from genotyping analysis of fox positive scats collected in Tasmania
Results received on Monday 13 July 2009 from the Wildlife Forensics Laboratory at the University of Western Australia report DNA genotyping has identified a further two individual foxes from analysis of fox positive scat samples collected in Tasmania. DNA analysis demonstrated that one fox was female and one sample requires further testing to confirm its gender (see Table 1 below).

The latest two foxes identified are both new individuals and are distinct from the eight individual foxes previously identified through DNA analysis (April 2009: Further results from genotyping analysis of fox positive scats collected in Tasmania).

The total number of individual foxes identified from scat samples collected in Tasmania is now ten, which includes five males, three females and two gender unknown.

Thirty-eight of the thirty-nine fox positive scats collected by the FEP since 2005 have now undergone genotyping analysis. Twenty-eight samples did not produce adequate genotypes to distinguish individual foxes. The poor result from these samples possibly reflects the rapid degradation of DNA as it ages.

It is important to note that the latest results are not new evidence of fox activity in Tasmania but represent further analysis of fox positive scats already collected by the FEP. The results are important in building a more detailed picture of the fox population within the state and provide key baseline data for monitoring activities.

Areas from which the scats were collected have been targeted by FEP detection and eradication activities, and ongoing monitoring is being conducted in these areas.

Table 1. Details of two individual foxes identified from fox positive scat samples collected in Tasmania.

Date scat collectedLocationGenderUnique genotype
16-Feb-09Stowport (Burnie)FemaleYes
06-May-09Wesley ValeUnknownYes

Full genotyping report details are available.


May 2009: Fox positive scat confirmed from Wesley Vale
Results received on Wednesday 27 May 2009 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that a scat (1) collected from Wesley Vale has tested positive for fox DNA.

Wesley Vale (1)
Collected on 06 May 2009 during a sighting report investigation by an Investigator with support from a Scat Detector Dog Team. Scat received a positive 'sit' response from the detector dog and received priority analysis at the University of Canberra.

Wesley Vale is located approximately 7 km east of Devonport on the northwest coast of Tasmania. No physical evidence of fox activity had previously been collected in this area but fox positive scats have been collected from nearby (within 10 km) locations (Spreyton, to the southwest, in 2007-08 and Hawley Beach, to the northeast, in 2008).


April 2009: Materials identified from dietary analysis of fox positive scats
Further light has been shed on Tasmania's foxes with results received on Wednesday 15 April 2009 from the dietary analysis of 15 fox positive scats collected in the state.

Dietary analysis, which is undertaken by an independent expert in identifying animal remains, uses undigested tissue (such as foot pads), hair, teeth, claws and bone found in scats to identify the type of animal that was eaten. Analysis has now identified over 10 different animal species in the fox positive scats collected in Tasmania, including wildlife such as ringtail and brushtail possums and Bennett's wallabies (see Table 1 below).

Introduced species were also frequently in the scats, with the remains of rabbits, house mice and sheep being identified. The results also show possible evidence of foxes scavenging carrion, with material from domestic cattle and eastern grey kangaroos, as well as rubbish (plastic and paper), being found in the scats.

Of concern for Tasmania, the remains of an eastern barred bandicoot were identified in one of the scats. This animal is now extremely rare on the mainland due to fox predation and the species is high on the list of the Tasmanian wildlife at risk from foxes. A hair from a quoll (species unknown) was identified in another scat and illustrates another animal greatly at risk from an established fox population in the state.

Table 1. Details of materials identified from dietary analysis of fox positive scat samples collected in Tasmania.

Native WildlifeIntroduced SpeciesOther
Brushtail possum
Ringtail possum
Bennett's wallaby
Eastern grey kangaroo
Eastern barred bandicoot
Quoll sp.
Sheep
Rabbit
House mouse
Domestic cattle
Black rat
Reptile scales
Bones of small amphibian
Insect material
Pupa cases
Feathers
Human hair
Plant material
Sponge rubber, plastic, paper, rubber band

Dietary analysis emphasises the diet adaptability of foxes and how they can - and will - eat almost anything. The remains of reptiles, insect pieces, feathers, plant material, plastic, paper and even human hair have been identified in the scats. A number of scats also contained fox hairs, which are likely to have been swallowed by the fox during grooming.

Combined with the recent DNA genotyping results, a much better understanding of the Tasmanian foxes is now being obtained. The Fox Eradication Program obtains dietary analysis for all fox positive scats that are collected in Tasmania as part of investigations to gain as much information as possible from the fox physical evidence collected.

Following confirmation by the University of Canberra that a scat is positive for fox DNA, material is then sent to Barbara Triggs for dietary analysis. Barbara Triggs is a nationally recognised expert in mammalian trace identification and author of the award winning Mammal Tracks and Signs field guide.

The dietary analysis supplements information about individual fox identities gained through DNA genotyping at the University of Western Australia.

The latest results bring to thirty-four the number of fox positive scats that have had dietary analysis completed.


April 2009: Further results from genotyping analysis of fox positive scats collected in Tasmania
Results received on Monday 6 April 2009 from the Wildlife Forensics Laboratory at the University of Western Australia report DNA genotyping has identified a further three individual foxes from analysis of eleven fox positive scat samples collected in Tasmania. DNA analysis demonstrated that one fox was male, one was female and one sample requires further testing to confirm its gender (see Table 1 below).

Eight DNA samples did not produce adequate genotypes to distinguish individual foxes.

The latest three foxes identified are all new individuals and are distinct from the five individual foxes previously identified through DNA analysis (see 'March 2009: Progress report for genotyping analysis of fox positive scats collected in Tasmania' below). The latest analysis was also successfully able to determine the gender of the fox positive scat collected in Campbell Town that was not confirmed during previous testing. This scat was demonstrated to be from a male fox.

The total number of foxes identified from scat samples collected in Tasmania is now eight, including five males, two females and one unknown gender.

Thirty-six of the thirty-seven fox positive scats collected by the FEP since 2005 have now undergone genotyping analysis. Twenty-eight samples did not produce adequate genotypes to distinguish individual foxes. The poor result from these samples possibly reflects the rapid degradation of DNA as it ages.

It is important to note that these results are not new evidence of fox activity in Tasmania but represent further analysis of the fox positive scats already collected by the FEP.

Table 1. Details of three individual foxes identified from fox positive scat samples collected in Tasmania.

Date scat collectedLocationGenderUnique genotype
23-Jun-08SpreytonUnknownYes
04-Nov-08WynyardMaleYes
16-Dec-08Boat HarbourFemaleYes

Full genotyping report details are available.


March 2009: Fox positive scat confirmed from Stowport
Results received on Wednesday 18 March 2009 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that a scat (1) collected from Stowport has tested positive for fox DNA.

Stowport (1)
Collected on 16 February 2009 during a sighting report investigation by an Investigator with support from a Scat Detector Dog Team. Scat received a positive 'sit' response from the detector dog and received priority analysis at the University of Canberra.

The scat was collected from a location approximately 6.5 km south-east of Burnie and within 4 km of three other fox positive scats collected in the area during 2008.

A total of six (6) fox positive scats were collected from the Burnie area during 2008. Recent DNA genotyping analysis of some of these scats has confirmed the identity of at least two individual male foxes in the Burnie scats that were analysed. See preceding evidence update (below) for further details.

Locations from which fox positive scats have been collected in the Burnie area have been - and continue to be - targeted by Fox Eradication Program detection and eradication activities. Ongoing monitoring is also being conducted within this area.

The collection of this evidence reinforces the importance of public sighting report information for the success of the fox eradication effort. All information is vital - no matter how insignificant it may seem - and helps direct monitoring, detection and eradication activities. Without the vigilance and support of the community we will not be successful in returning Tasmania to fox-free status.


March 2009: Progress report for genotyping analysis of fox positive scats collected in Tasmania
Results received on Friday 6 March 2009 from the Wildlife Forensics Laboratory at the University of Western Australia report DNA genotyping has identified five individual foxes from fox positive scat samples collected in Tasmania. DNA analysis also demonstrated that three of the foxes were males and one was female. One sample requires further testing to confirm its gender.

As part of the Tasmanian carnivore scat analysis project, DNA samples from 25 fox positive scats identified by the Institute for Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra were sent for processing in the Wildlife Forensics Laboratory at the University of Western Australia. This work is being conducted by the University of Western Australia in conjunction with the Tasmanian Fox Eradication Program (FEP) and is supported by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IACRC).

Four DNA samples produced genotypes of high enough quality to distinguish individual foxes at the high stringency where full-siblings could be distinguished (minimum of five microsatellite markers with consensus genotypes). An additional sample produced a four marker genotype. The DNA from each scat produced a unique individual genotype, indicating the presence of at least five different foxes in the sample. Three of the foxes were male (presence of testis determining gene) and one was female (absence of testis determining gene). The gender of one sample could not be confirmed and requires further testing.

Twenty DNA samples did not produce adequate genotypes to distinguish individual foxes. The poor result from these samples possibly reflects the rapid degradation of DNA as it ages.

Table 1. Details of five individual foxes identified from fox positive scat samples collected in Tasmania.

Date scat collectedLocationGenderUnique genotype
07-May-08SpreytonMaleYes
27-May-08BurnieMaleYes
16-Jun-08BurnieFemale*Yes
17-Jun-08Lower BarringtonMale*Yes
08-Feb-08Campbell TownUnknownYes

* Correction on 24/04: Due to a typographical error, these two identifications were accidentally swapped in earlier updates. The female fox should have been reported for Burnie and a male fox for Lower Barrington.

It is important to note that these results are not new evidence of fox activity in Tasmania but represent further analysis of the fox positive scats already collected by the FEP. The results are important in building a more detailed picture of the fox population within the state and provide key baseline data for monitoring activities.

Areas from which the scats were collected have been targeted by FEP detection and eradication activities, and ongoing monitoring is being conducted in these areas.

Full genotyping report details are available.


February 2009: Fox positive scat collected from Derby
Results received on Thursday 12 February 2009 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that a scat(1) collected from Derby has tested positive for fox DNA.

Derby (1)
Collected on 20 May 2008 during Phase 1 of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey (also known as 'The Great Poo Hunt'). No physical evidence of foxes has previously been collected from this location.

The Derby scat was collected approximately 30 km from two fox positive scats that were collected in two separate locations near Gladstone on 18 and 25 October 2007. The Gladstone scats were collected during field trials for Phase 1 of the Scat Collection Survey.

Including the Derby scat, six (6) fox positive scats have now been identified from scats collected during the survey (approximately 2,200 scats have been analysed to date).

These results emphasise the importance of the strategic carnivore Scat Collection Survey in the integrated fox eradication program. The information gathered from the survey is crucial in helping identify areas of fox activity within Tasmania and allows better targeting of fox eradication efforts. Phase 2 of the survey is due to be undertaken in southern Tasmania in autumn 2009.

A number of 1080 fox baiting programs have targeted this area and a program was carried out in the Gladstone-Waterhouse region during 8 December 2008 - 27 February 2009.


January 2009: Fox positive scat collected from Boat Harbour
Results received on Wednesday 21 January 2009 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that a scat collected from Boat Harbour has tested positive for fox DNA.

Boat Harbour (1)
Collected on 16 December 2008 during a sighting report investigation by an Investigator with support from a Scat Detector Dog Team. Scat received a positive 'sit' response from the detector dog and received priority analysis at the University of Canberra. No physical evidence of foxes has previously been collected from this location.

The Boat Harbour scat was collected 12.8 km from the Wynyard scat, collected on 04 November 2008, and 25.6 km from the Burnie scat, collected on 30 October 2008. In addition to current on-ground operations in these areas, planning is underway to target intensified monitoring and eradication activities in the north-west region in response to the recent physical evidence collected.

From the information currently available, it is not possible to determine if one or more foxes is responsible for the physical evidence that has been collected in this region.


January 2009: Three fox positive scats collected from two locations
Results received on Friday 16 January 2009 from the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology report that three scats collected from two locations in Tasmania have tested positive for fox DNA. The scats were collected from: Burnie (2) and Wynyard (1).

Burnie (2)
Collected on 22 and 30 October 2008 during ongoing monitoring in this 'hotspot' area by an Investigator with support from a Scat Detector Dog Team. Both scats received a positive 'sit' response from the detector dog and received priority analysis at the University of Canberra. A total of six fox positive scats have now been collected from the Burnie area in 2008.

Wynyard (1)
Collected on 4 November 2008 during sighting report investigation by an Investigator with support from Scat Detector Dog Team. Scat received a positive 'sit' response from the detector dog and received priority analysis at the University of Canberra. No physical evidence of foxes has previously been collected from this location.




Fox Evidence 2008


October 2008: Four fox positive scats collected from three locations around the state
Four scats collected from three locations around the state have tested positive for fox DNA by the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology. The scats were collected from: Burnie (2), Tunbridge (1) and Campbell Town (1).

Burnie (2)
Collected on 3 and 21 July 2008 by Scat Detector Dog Teams during follow-up monitoring in this 'hotspot' area. Both scats received a positive 'sit' response from the detector dog and received priority analysis at the University of Canberra. A total of four fox positive scats have now been confirmed from the Burnie area in the past year.

Tunbridge (1)
Collected on 8 May 2008 during Phase 1 of the Scat Collection Survey. No physical evidence has previously been collected from this geographic location but the area represents a point (as the crow flies) roughly 25 km south of the Campbell Town and 15 km north of the Oatlands 'hotspots'.

Campbell Town (1)
Collected on 14 August 2008 by a Scat Detector Dog Team during follow-up monitoring in this 'hotspot' area. Scat received a positive 'sit' response from the detector dog and received priority analysis at the University of Canberra. A total of four fox positive scats have now been confirmed from the Campbell Town-Conara area in the past year.


September 2008: Two further fox positive scats collected from Spreyton area
Two scats collected from the Spreyton area in the north of the state have tested positive for fox DNA by the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology.

The scats were collected by a Scat Detector Dog Team on 23 June 2008 during follow-up monitoring in this 'hotspot' area. Both scats received a positive 'sit' response from the detector dog and received priority analysis at the University of Canberra. A total of six fox positive scats have now been collected from the Spreyton area in the past year.

In response to the volume of physical evidence and number of credible sighting reports received from the Spreyton area, additional program resources have been devoted to develop and implement an appropriate response plan.


July 2008: Fox positive scat collected from another location in Northern Tasmania
A scat (1) collected from Hawley Beach in the north of the state has been identified as a fox positive scat by the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology.

The scat was collected on 21 February during a follow-up investigation in response to a sighting report by a member of the public.

The collection of this fox positive scat reinforces the need for ongoing vigilance by the Tasmanian public and the vital role sighting reports play in directing the search for evidence of fox activity and targeting of eradication activities.


July 2008: Five fox positive scats collected from three locations in Northern Tasmania
Five scats collected from sites near Burnie (2), Longford (2) and Barrington (1) have been identified as fox positive scats by the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology.

The scats discovered in the Burnie area were collected on 27 May and 16 June during follow-up investigations in response to sighting reports. Both investigations included support from a Scat Detector Dog Team and each scat was checked by a dog in situ, which reacted with a positive 'sit' response.

The scats collected near Longford were discovered on 3 June and 16 June during follow-up monitoring in response to a fox positive scat collected in this area in March during the Scat Collection Survey. The scats were discovered during monitoring involving Investigators and Scat Detector Dog Teams. Each scat was checked by a detector dog in situ, which reacted with a positive 'sit' response.

The scat collected in the Barrington area was found on 17 June during follow-up monitoring in response to a fox positive scat collected in this area in May. The scat was checked by a scat detector dog in situ, which reacted with a positive 'sit' response.

The collection of these fox positive scats reinforces that cooperation, support and information provided by landholders and the general public is vital in the identification of areas of fox activity. In particular, recent access provided to a number of properties is greatly appreciated and essential for success in investigation, monitoring and baiting activities.


May 2008: Further fox positive scats collected from 'hotspot' areas
Five scats collected from sites near Longford, Conara, Spreyton (2) and Barrington have been identified as fox positive scats by the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology. These locations are all currently the focus of monitoring and investigation activities and have been identified as 'hotspots' for potential fox activity.

The scat collected in the Longford area was collected on 26 March 2008 during the strategic scat collection survey.

The scat collected near Conara was discovered on 29 April 2008 during investigations in the area following recent sighting reports. The scat received a subsequent positive 'sit' response when checked by a scat detector dog during screening.

The two scats collected in the Spreyton area were found within a few metres of each other on 7 May 2008 during follow up monitoring being carried out in this 'hotspot' area. Both scats were checked by a scat detector dog in situ, which reacted with a positive 'sit' response.

Four scats have now been collected from within a 2 km radius in the Spreyton area in the past 8 months.

The Barrington scat was also collected on 7 May 2008 and received a positive 'sit' response from a scat detector dog. This location is adjacent to the 'hotspot' area of Spreyton.


May 2008: Second fox positive scat collected from Spreyton
A scat collected in the Spreyton area has been positively identified as a fox positive scat by the University of Canberra's Institute of Applied Ecology. The scat was collected during follow-up monitoring activities triggered by collection of a fox positive scat in the area during August 2007.

The scat was found by field officers working with a scat detector dog team and was checked by the scat detector dog in situ, which reacted with a positive 'sit' response.

The latest fox positive scat was collected on 19 March 2008 and was found approximately 500 m from the previous fox positive scat. Intensive monitoring of this area will continue to be undertaken.


April 2008: Fox positive scats collected from Oatlands and Campbell Town
Two scats collected in the Oatlands and Campbell Town areas have been positively identified as fox positive scats by the University of Canberra's Institute of Applied Ecology.

The first scat was collected in the Oatlands area during a sweep by a scat detector dog team and followed investigations initiated by fox sighting reports and previous evidence collected in the area. The collection of this scat emphasises the vital role fox sighting information provided by the general public can play in targeting eradication efforts.

The second scat was collected in the Campbell Town area during the statewide carnivore Scat Collection Survey. This scat was collected from a location near where a previous fox positive scat had been collected.

Ongoing development and improvement of scat processing methodology has resulted in expedited DNA analysis of scats that are identified as having a higher likelihood of being from a fox, such as those identified by the scat detector dogs. This greatly improves the capacity of the Fox Eradication Program to more rapidly respond in locations of potential fox activity and target eradication programs.

Both scats were collected during March 2008. At this time of year (March to May) on mainland Australia, juvenile foxes may be undertaking active dispersal in the search for new territories.


March 2008: Six more fox positive scats collected from across Tasmania
Six scats collected as part of the Fox Eradication Program's ongoing monitoring and investigation activities have been identified as fox positive scats by the University of Canberra's Institute of Applied Ecology. The scats were among thousands of scats that have been collected by the Program and sent to the University of Canberra for DNA analysis.

The fox positive scats were collected in the Oatlands, Campbell Town, Spreyton, Seymour and Gladstone areas between July 2007 and February 2008. Collection involved staff from all three Fox Eradication Program offices (New Town, Prospect and Devonport) and three different areas of the integrated eradication program.

Two of the fox positive scats were located by the specially trained scat detector dogs which joined the Program late last year. These dogs are used to search for evidence of fox activity in 'hotspot' areas following investigation activities or the detection of other evidence of fox activity.

A further two fox positive scats were found during initial work for the statewide carnivore Scat Collection Survey. This project is designed to comprehensively examine all areas of highly suitable fox habitat in Tasmania and gather information that will help identify the location of fox populations.

It is a positive result that these new monitoring methods developed by the Fox Eradication Program are already achieving success in identifying locations of fox activity, boosting the capacity of the existing monitoring program already in place.

The remaining two fox positive scats were collected during routine investigations undertaken in response to sighting reports, providing a clear example of the need for the community to be vigilant for and report signs of fox activity. Sighting reports are an important tool in the search for evidence and may be vital to the success of the eradication effort.

The improved monitoring capacity of the Fox Eradication Program reflects the recent addition of new staff and resources, enabling monitoring efforts to intensify in the past six months. It is likely that as the effort intensifies in the search for evidence that it will increase the chances of detecting evidence. The collection of the six fox positive scats also reflects the cooperation and support provided by landholders across the state, who allow access to their properties for ongoing monitoring activities.

Information gathered through monitoring is used to identify areas of fox activity within the state and acts as a trigger for further surveillance and targeted fox eradication activities. Some of the areas from where the fox positive scats were collected have already been "hotspot" areas and have been targeted by eradication activities.

Scat analysis undertaken at the University of Canberra involves DNA testing of samples to determine if fox DNA is present.

DNA testing involves the use of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) analysis. PCR is used to amplify specific regions of a DNA strand (the DNA target) and is sometimes called 'molecular photocopying'.




Fox Evidence 2007


January 2007: Five scats confirm a fox presence
Independent analysis has identified that five scats collected during monitoring in the midlands area have tested positive for fox DNA. The five scats, which were among 103 collected from around the area where the Cleveland fox was located, were identified through genetic analysis by the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology.

This is further evidence from a site that has been regarded as a 'hotspot' for evidence of fox activity. The scats add to the pool of evidence that has already been identified from this area which includes a previous scat and the fresh carcass last year. The five scats were collected during September and October 2006.

Subsequently, a major baiting program was undertaken in that area late 2006, including several of the properties where the scats were located. Further monitoring around the area is being undertaken and we are looking at a further round of baiting over the next month.

The support of several of the surrounding landholders during the baiting and monitoring was certainly appreciated and it was only because of their support that several of the scats were identified. The most successful fox programs on the mainland are those that involve Government agencies and private landholders working together to ensure that all areas of fox activity are targeted at the same time.



Cleveland Fox prior to post-mortem examinations
The Cleveland fox prior to post-mortem examinations

Fox Evidence 2006


August 2006: A male fox carcass is collected on Glen Esk Rd, near Cleveland in the northern midlands.

View the Cleveland fox forensic analysis


May 2006: Blood is collected at the site of a large chicken kill at a coop in Old Beach (near Hobart). Analysis confirms the blood to contain fox DNA. The blood was recovered from barbed wire placed around a hole in the coop in the hope of gathering fur for testing.


February 2006: A dead fox is observed by a tourist at the roadside at Lillico Beach. The Fox Eradication Program is advised and retrieve the carcass. Subsequent tissue, hair and jaw analysis confirmed the animal to be a juvenile fox estimated to be 4-6 months old. The witness (who was on vacation) initially sighted it on Christmas Day 2005 but did not report it until she returned to work and mentioned what she had seen to a colleague. The colleague advised her to immediately call the Fox Eradication Program. Upon receipt of the call, field officers were despatched to the scene and collected the remains of the carcass.



Fox Evidence 2005


February 2005: A scat collected as part of the Fox Eradication Program's monitoring activities in the Conara area is confirmed in September as a fox positive scat through DNA analysis.



Fox Evidence 2003


October 2003: A fox carcass (female) is found on the verge of Bass Highway on the outskirts of Burnie. Police retrieved the carcass.




Fox Evidence 2002


May 2002: Scat collected near Burnie is confirmed to contain fox guard hairs. Guard hairs are the longest, most coarse hairs in a mammal's coat, forming the outer coat, which through the animal's grooming processes, pass through the system and into the scat.





Male fox shot near Symmons Plains in September 2001
Fox shot near Symmons Plains.

Fox Evidence 2001


September 2001: A male fox is shot near Symmons Plains (known as the 'Bosworth' fox) and the carcass retrieved. Contents of gut revealed evidence of an endemic species, indicating that the fox had been living in the wild in Tasmania.


August 2001: Confirmed fox prints found at Woodstock Lagoon (near Longford).

Fact sheets:

Fox Activity in Tasmania (Map) (215 KB)


Physical Evidence of Fox Activity (Table) (87 KB)

Contact

Invasive Species Enquiries
171 Westbury Road
PROSPECT TAS 7250
Phone: 03 6777 2200
Fax: 03 6336 5453
Email: invasivespecies@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

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