Red Foxes were introduced to Australia in the 1870s. By the 1890s they had become widespread feral pests. They are among the most successful predators in the world and have caused devastating declines in native animal populations. They also thrive in disturbed and fragmented habitats and carry diseases such as mange, which affects wombats and dingos. Programs to control foxes by poisoning, shooting and trapping have reduced numbers but will probably never eradicate them, since they quickly repopulate.
Amazing Red Foxes
Originally released near Melbourne by sporting shooters, Red Foxes have invaded the southern half of Australia. They reproduce quickly and can eat almost anything. In the Mallee they eat the eggs and young of endangered Malleefowls, defeating programs to release birds raised in captivity.
Red Foxes are skilled predators thanks to their keen vision, sense of smell, speed and climbing ability. By day they shelter in hollows and old rabbit burrows, emerging at dusk to hunt. They live in family groups comprising a dominant male and female and their cubs.
Red Foxes breed once a year between July and October. The dominant female gives birth to 4–10 blind and helpless pups. The mother suckles the pups for 4–5 weeks, and they remain hidden in the den while the father brings food to them. In summer, young foxes disperse up to 30 km away from their family group to establish their own territories, which they mark with a strong, distinctive scent.
The red coat and bushy tail of Red Foxes are also a common sight in urban areas such as parks and backyards. Here food is plentiful and there can be 12 foxes per square kilometre. This species thrives in patchy, disturbed habitats such as farmlands or near roads and generally does not live in dense forests.