The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has advised of a fox baiting program to take place in the Kenny and Colquhoun forests in East Gippsland in early October.
The program is a part of the Southern Ark project which is a wildlife management project undertaken in the State Forests and National Parks across East Gippsland Forest Management Area. The on-ground focus of Southern Ark is the ongoing control of foxes using buried 1080 and PAPP baits, for the benefit of native wildlife. Foxes are a major threat to a wide range of native species. Southern Ark has been in operation since 2005, operating across 3,600 bait stations distributed across one million hectares of State Forest and National Parks, mostly to the east of the Snowy River.
Acknowledging that there are several stakeholders that use these forests, and in particular hunters who use scent-trailing hounds to hunt Sambar Deer, the Southern Ark team is adopting a modified approach to the usual fox control approach of having toxic baits buried within bait stations throughout the year. Whilst no disturbance would be optimal, this acknowledgement from DELWP is welcomed and continues the excellent approach to open communications that their Eastern Region Wild Dog team have taken over a number of years now.
Owing to two rounds of COVID-19 related restrictions, hound teams have effectively lost around 40% of the viable part of the hunting season in 2020.
To minimise the impact of the fox control program on hunters who use scent-trailing dogs during the open season, a short intense period of fox control will be undertaken across a ten-day period in October.
In this program over 400 bait stations have been established and baited with unpoisoned (“free-feed”) baits across the Kenny and Colquhoun forests. A prolonged period of free feeding with unpoisoned baits will take place, with all bait stations being rebaited on a weekly basis for nine weeks. This approach ensures that a regular pattern of visiting bait stations and bait consumption is developed amongst resident foxes; experience has shown that once foxes learn there are baits buried in the bait stations, they regularly return to the stations to see if baits have been replaced.
After the nine weeks of free-feeding, a 10-day period of poison baiting will take place. All free-feed baits will be replaced with fox-strength PAPP baits on Monday the 5th of October. The stations will be checked on Wednesday the 7th of October, Friday the 9th of October and Monday the 12th of October. Any baits taken by foxes during this time will be replaced with another PAPP bait. On Wednesday the 14th of October all PAPP baits will be removed and free-feed (unpoisoned) baits will again be placed in the bait stations. From the 14th of October, free-feed (unpoisoned) baits will be maintained in bait stations until December 1st 2020. As this is outside of the season where hunters can use scent-trailing dogs to hunt deer, PAPP baits will be placed in the bait stations and the toxic baiting program will be sustained until the end of March 2021 (funding dependent).
The poison baiting programs are undertaken in a manner that puts maximum pressure on foxes while minimising the risks to domestic dogs. Bait stations have been established at one-kilometre intervals, and all baits are buried at least 15cm below the surface of the ground. This program is also using fox-strength (400mg) PAPP baits, which are unlikely (but not guaranteed) to kill dogs that weigh more than 15kg. PAPP baits also have an antidote however this must be administered by a vet within 30 minutes of the bait being eaten.
When the toxic baiting commences, A3-sized corflute Warning Signs will be positioned on all vehicle tracks running into the area of forest included in the baiting program to advise those visiting the forest that the baiting is taking place.
DELWP are asking that hunters refrain from hunting with scent-trailing hounds and companion dogs in the Colquhuon and Kenny Forests from Monday the 5th of October until Wednesday the 14th of October, and that you do not interfere with either the free feed or the PAPP baits during anytime of this project.
Enquiries concerning this fox control program can be directed via email to Andrew Murray, Southern Ark Operations Manager, on firstname.lastname@example.org.