Call for a doubling of cash bounty on foxes

Shooters want a doubling of cash bounty for fox control

Sheepmeat
BUSY: Crosshairs Vermin Control operator Lee Elliott says the good season has increased fox numbers around Stony Creek in Gippsland.

BUSY: Crosshairs Vermin Control operator Lee Elliott says the good season has increased fox numbers around Stony Creek in Gippsland.

Aa

It has been a good season for pest animals like foxes in the southern states.

Aa

It has been a good season for pest animals like foxes in the southern states.

It has led to a call for a doubling of the $10 cash bounty paid in Victoria, still the only government reward scheme of its type.

Hunters there say fox numbers are on the rise following a good season and have called for the bounty to be increased, but agencies say shooting alone will not control numbers.

The bounty was introduced in 2011 and pays $10 per fox scalp and $120 for wild dog skins.

Collection points are open from March until October.

At the end of this season, close to one million scalps will have been submitted since the program began.

In the east of the state at Nerrena, dairy farmer Josh Greaves shoots between 200 and 400 foxes each year around Gippsland by using hounds to flush them out.

Mr Greaves said lately he had received more calls from hobby farmers reporting foxes attacking poultry.

He said he had previously had issues on his own farm.

"We've started calving now and if I get a cow with milk fever, I've been down in the paddock and she's unable to move, she's still alive and I've found her with her teats chewed off and her ears chewed off," he said.

"Or you'll get a calf, while the cow is having it the calf will get its tail eaten off.

"They're usually the old foxes that can't catch a proper feed."

He said the $10 bounty did not cover the cost of fuel or bullets and it should be raised to at least $20 a scalp as an incentive for hunters to continue to tackle the problem.

"You can bait them, you can shoot them... but they're here forever, you've just got to live with them," he said.

"They're smart animals, if an old lady down the road chucks out her leftovers out the window every night, they're going to figure out they can come up there and get food."

Crosshairs Vermin Control operator Lee Elliott offers a free service to farmers and hunts around Stony Creek in South Gippsland.

Last year he shot 106 foxes and he has already killed 32 this year.

He said numbers were definitely on the rise.

MORE READING: War against rabbits will never end.

"I moved to Stony Creek and noticed straight away there's just an abundance of foxes," he said.

"I didn't expect to get that many - I thought I'd probably get a few - but once I actually got out there at night time and saw what was running around it was like, 'okay, this is a problem'."

He said farmers were often not aware how bad the numbers were.

One farmer reported he thought there was a couple of foxes on his 80-hectare property.

"I shot six the first night, then I went back and I shot another four, then another four, then another two," Mr Elliott said.

"That was lambing season as well - it was chaos."

He said the problem was Australia wide.

The famous fox fence of central Victoria from an earlier bounty scheme.

The famous fox fence of central Victoria from an earlier bounty scheme.

"I've taken 106 last year out of five different properties and it did quieten off, but I've already seen numbers coming back through again now," he said.

"These are paddocks that I've given a fair old hard time and they're just coming back."

He said some of the foxes shot last year were mangey but so far everything killed this year had been in very good condition.

He said it would be nice if the bounty was increased to help cover costs.

"I come from a farming background, I just look at it as I'm doing them a favour," he said.

"Your $10 bounty doesn't really cover a lot.

"If you sat down and really added it up I'm probably running at a loss, but what do you do?

"If you're not going out there and doing the job, the foxes are just going to take over."

The other difficulty was getting access to farms in the first place, he said, with farmers often apprehensive about letting strangers shoot on their land.

"There are a few people that have stuffed it up - they go out, they just blast away and shoot whatever they want," he said.

"I know I'm never going to make money out of it but I've tried to turn it as professional as I can for the farmers."

He was concerned the foxes were not only preying on lambs and calves, but also taking native wildlife.

"They are going to get slowly wiped out if we don't do something about the foxes," he said.

The good season had brought increased rabbit numbers which had probably contributed to the rise.

A scene from an earlier bounty scheme.

A scene from an earlier bounty scheme.

Other hunters in the region agreed, with many reporting increased numbers.

Hudson Cole hunts on land around Koo Wee Rup.

He said it was unusual to see more than one or two foxes a year, but so far he had shot 12 from his veranda.

Agriculture Victoria does not keep a record of the total number of foxes in the state as populations fluctuate throughout the year.

The department has previously acknowledged that foxes cannot be eradicated and that ongoing management was needed instead.

Bounty collection points for the south-east area opened on March 22.

So far 1775 scalps have been submitted, which is a slight increase on the same time last year.

Agriculture Victoria did not respond to questions about whether it would consider increasing the bounty, but a department spokesperson said in a statement that it was an incentive program designed to encourage community participation in managing fox and wild dog populations.

"The bounty contributes to an integrated management approach for fox and wild dog management," it read.

Other measures of control included baiting, trapping, exclusion fencing, fumigation and appropriate animal husbandry.

Previous reviews into the bounty have raised questions about its effectiveness in managing numbers.

Stakeholders such as the Invasive Species Council noted in a 2017 review that the bounty did not reduce the impacts of foxes.

Start the day with all the big news in agriculture! Sign up below to receive our daily Farmonline newsletter.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by