Based on new evidence (700 records), this paper provides a detailed account of the importation, release, occurrence, establishment, spread, and early impact on prey animals of the red fox, Vulpes vulpes, in Victoria and adjacent parts of south-eastern Australia. Foxes were imported to Victoria on at least nine occasions between 1845 and 1879, mainly for sporting purposes, and were released directly into the wild on at least five occasions between 1845 and 1873. Foxes may also have been bred in captivity, as some were exhibited at agricultural shows in 1869 and 1872. Releases in 1845 near Geelong and in about 1868 and 1871 near Ballarat did not persist. The prevalence of guns in the rural community, together with a culture of shooting animals for sport, and the broadscale deployment of poison to kill dingoes, feral dogs, and rabbits, apparently conspired to restrict the rapid establishment and spread of foxes across Victoria before 1880. The main point of successful establishment was in Werribee district, possibly in about 1874 (but definitely by 1878), and probably by the wealthy Chirnside family of Werribee Park. Foxes became conspicuously numerous between Geelong and Melbourne in 1878-79 and then dispersed. From 1882 foxes were often unbagged at hunt club meets, and some of these were able to elude the hounds of the pack as they gave chase. The increased availability of rabbits and hares, resulting from their earlier release and subsequent ineffectual control mechanisms, presumably favoured the survival and spread of foxes. Foxes were also translocated by some crop growers in an effort to combat rabbits and hares, though this is poorly documented. The dense forests of Gippsland impeded colonisation, so that Victoria was probably not entirely colonised until about 1900. Foxes reached the Adelaide district of South Australia in 1905 and the Queensland/ New South Wales border in 1907. Unintended consequences of the introduction of foxes were soon observed: killing of lambs and poultry by 1868; native birds by 1879; and native mammals by c. 1900.
The importation, release, establishment, spread, and early impact on prey animals of the red fox Vulpes vulpes in Victoria and adjoining parts of south-eastern Australia
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Ian Abbott; The importation, release, establishment, spread, and early impact on prey animals of the red fox Vulpes vulpes in Victoria and adjoining parts of south-eastern Australia. Australian Zoologist 1 January 2011; 35 (3): 463–533. doi: https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2011.003
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