Pest animals, including foxes, cats and rabbits, significantly impact on indigenous plants and animals and their habitats.
Foxes and cats are exceptional hunters and are the primary cause in the decline and extinction of many smaller native animals.
Rabbits directly compete with native wildlife for food and shelter, damage native vegetation and degrade the land. Rabbits have contributed to the decline in numbers of many native plants and animals.
Foxes and rabbits
Foxes and rabbits are both declared as an Established Pest Animal in Victoria under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994. Under this act, landowners are responsible for the control of foxes and rabbits on their land.
Since their introduction to Australia in the 1870s, foxes have become a major threat to Australia’s environment and economy, with a total annual cost estimated at $227 million. Foxes cause significant economic losses by preying on newborn lambs, kid goats and poultry, and cause significant environmental damage by predating on native animals. Foxes can cause nuisance in urban areas by attacking backyard chickens, raiding garbage bins and scavenging for food.
Rabbits also pose considerable environmental and economic impacts. They graze on native vegetation, crops and pastures, and can prevent seedlings from regenerating and reduce crop yields, as well as increase competition for feed with livestock. Rabbits damage native plants and directly compete with native wildlife for food and shelter. Their digging and browsing leads to a loss of vegetation cover, which can result in soil erosion.
What are we doing to control foxes and rabbits?
The Shire controls foxes and rabbits on Shire-managed land (mostly bushland and foreshore reserves) as part of our biodiversity conservation programs. The aim of this program is to protect threatened species including the Southern Brown Bandicoot, White-footed Dunnart, Australasian Bittern and migratory shorebirds. Works are prioritised to focus on a few key locations and are co-ordinated with other land managers. Target species included foxes, rabbits and cats.
What can you do to control foxes and rabbits on your property?
The Shire doesn’t provide a fox or rabbit control service for private property.
Foxes are widespread and numerous across urban and rural areas, with as many as 12 foxes per square kilometer. A fox removed from its territory will quickly be replaced with another, so it is often better to eliminate the food and shelter which attract them rather than attempt to remove them. Some simple things you can do to deter foxes include:
- Lock up chickens, ducks, guinea pigs and pet rabbits in a roofed and robust enclosure at night;
- Clean up food scraps, dog bones, pet food and excess fruit dropped by fruit trees;
- Cover your compost heap or use a compost bin;
- Restrict access to underneath your house where foxes like to shelter.
Rabbits mostly impact rural areas, though sometimes spread to urban areas causing damage to gardens and under buildings. Rabbits reproduce quickly and their numbers can vary greatly depending on available food and shelter. Eliminating or reducing shelter can be one of the more effective means of control. Some actions you can undertake to reduce rabbits include:
- Reduce shelter by restricting access under houses and sheds, and uplifting thick vegetation.
- Backfill warrens and monitor regularly to address re-openings.
- Install rabbit proof fencing to protect garden beds and newly planted trees.
- Fencing is also a good way to block access to under the house.
- Engage a licensed pest animal controller to undertake warren fumigation and baiting.
If you want to engage a licensed pest animal controller to undertake fox or rabbit control on your property, the Vertebrate Pest Management Association Australia website can help you find a controller in your area.
Effective control of foxes and rabbits at a landscape scale requires an ongoing, integrated approach. We encourage landowners to work together, as an area-wide program will be far more successful than individuals working alone at different times. The Pest Smart website has further information on pest animal management.