Tasmanian Foxes

Subject: Tasmanian Foxes
Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2002 14:27:30 +1100

It seems foxes have good friends beyond the idiots bringing them to Tasmania. The bizzare claims made and justification given by Don Camby ( in this venue 14/10/02), suggesting the fox thing in Tasmania is a fraud, are just the sort of leg-up that foxes need.

The Fox-Free Taskforce  was set up in response to an increasing weight of evidence as follows.

Hard Evidence (in time sequence)
1.A skin of an adult male reportedly shot at Longford in July 2001, fowarded anonymously by people who claimed to be tresspassing (poaching) at the time.

2. A confirmed set of footprints 1-2 days old near Longford close to the above site but 10 days after that reported shooting .

3. A whole carcase of a 14-16 month old (from teeth analysis) male reportedly shot at Symmons Plains in September 2001 containing a partly digested, endemic Long-tailed Mouse plus other plants and animals indigenous to Tasmania.

DNA tests show the carcase and the skin are closely related - at least cousins.

4. A confirmed scat (from fox hairs in content) from Burnie in August 2002.

Firm Evidence
Likely scats (because of shape, texture and smell) from Burnie in September 2002,  Campania in September 2002 and Longford in October 2002.

Three lambs apparently scavenged by fox August-September 2002, two at Campania and one from Symmons Plains. Handed in by farmers who "had never before seen sign like it" as neither had Taskforce staff with many decades of collective experience in predator management in Tasmania. In Victoria, no one looks twice at such damage to carcasses.

Soft Evidence
Over 300 reported sightings, 'hearings' and 'smellings' of what may have been foxes, the vast majority sighting reports in clumps (hotspots). Several of these have been in near optimal circumstances by excellent naturalists (one a Birds Australia member who has had several "..rare bird.." sightings accepted).

I hope there are few people who doubt that this weight of evidence deserves a high level response.

All of this evidence has been publicly presented with due respect to confidentailty desired by people giving reports. So, it seems extraordinary that Mr Camby is so badly informed. I can find no taskforce staff that have heard of Mr Camby. If he was so keen to do some investigations one might have thought he would have actually contacted us to examine the evidence.  He therefore can't have examined  "..most of the so-called sightings..".

It is clear to me that Mr Camby falls solidly into the "I'll believe it when I see it" box, or worse. I am dazzled by his confidence that he should have seen a few foxes in 500, 000 ha (Gamby's "...alleged infested areas.." ) by wandering around for a few weeks. I'm afraid we can't rely on such gambling  Mr Camby. Anyone who knows about foxes will be able to tell you that "by the time everyone is sure, you can be sure its too late".  I for one am not prepared to sit back and see what happens. If Mr Camby's style was followed (ie we did nothing) and he was wrong the consequences to him are , at worst, trivial. The consequences to Tasmania would be catastrophic.

Its fair enough to question the spending of public funds but Mr Camby's comments on the ethics of those within the response are outrageous and offensive.  

"...a hoax perpetrated by ex tree hugging ferals likely on a Public service building exercise. Funds are not used to advance the cause of conservation but to support lifestyles and personal agendas..".

If it wasn't so serious it would be funny since, unlike Mr Camby, I know the people involved.  I suppose having spent many years working  with forestry on the conservation on nesting eagles and goshawks I too, am an "..ex tree-hugging feral..". Some taskforce staff have  accepted lower incomes than their previous jobs simply because they recognise the importance of the issue. I have had to walk away from years of work in raptor research and conservation, wildlife tourism and devil management because of this issue and however inconvenient, I recognise the priority.

Certainly such responses are at risk from hoaxes and can always improve but by his endulgence in exaggeration and sloppy research Mr Gamby becomes exactly what he criticises.

I would be very curious to hear at what level of evidence Mr Gamby would have us act and at that level, what are the consequences for eradication efforts. Dare I suggest it would be to late.

Nick Mooney
Fox-Free Taskforce

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