Foxes represents the single most devastating threat to the survival of Tasmania's native mammals and birds. Tasmania is recognised internationally as a haven for unique fauna due to the lack of introduced predators such as foxes. However, nearly all of Tasmania's native land animals would be at risk from fox predation if they were to establish in the state.
Of the 77 native vertebrate species estimated at risk from fox impact, 34 species have locally restricted ranges, 16 are suspected to be already declining in distribution and 12 species are threatened according to Commonwealth or State legislation. This list does not include invertebrate species, many of which would also be at risk of fox predation.
Threatened and high conservation significance species at risk would include:
Adult fox with echidna
Image: Georgeanna Story, courtesy IA CRC
The Tasmanian pademelon and Tasmanian bettong, both of which thrive in Tasmania, are now extinct on the mainland because of the impact of foxes. The Eastern barred bandicoot is now only found in small, isolated populations on the mainland because of the impact of foxes.
The young of species such as the Tasmanian devil and spotted-tailed quoll that are left unattended in dens would also be vulnerable to predation by foxes. More widespread species like ducks, shorebirds, ground nesting birds, blue tongue lizards, mountain dragons, skinks and frogs are all at risk. Even animals such as the little penguin and platypus would be under threat.
Fox impact on Australia's wildlife
Foxes are recognised nationally as the single most devastating introduced pest and threat to the survival of Australia's native land animals. They have been listed as a National Threat on the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act 1992
. Foxes were introduced to mainland Australia in the 1850s and are now widespread across every state except for tropical areas in the far north.
Australia's wildlife has not evolved in the presence of foxes, and therefore lacks adequate adaptations to cope with the predatory prowess of the fox. In Victoria, for example, the fox has established itself in all terrestrial environments from inner urban areas to alpine heaths, rainforests to coastal heaths and mallee. It is known to have directly caused the extinction of six mammals and is currently implicated in the decline of:
- Eastern barred bandicoot
- Long footed potoroo
- Broad toothed rat
- New Holland mouse
- Mountain pygmy possum
- Brushtailed rock wallaby
- Broad-shelled tortoise
- Hooded plover
- Little tern
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