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Sniffing out foxes on K’gari

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QPWS has recently utilised the latest weapon in pest animal species management – sniffing out pest animal species that have the potential to severely impact island ecosystems like Fraser Island (K’gari).  Foxes are the most recent pest species to have been ‘captured’ on trail cameras installed on K’gari.  Foxes can compete with the island’s top native predator, the dingo, for food resources and have the potential to decimate the island’s threatened species such as ground parrot, marine turtle hatchlings, waders and small mammal species. 

As part of a QPWS pest management funded program, QPWS worked with the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation (BAC) to ensure they were comfortable with the proposal to allow highly skilled conservation detection dogs to access the normally domestic dog-free island, to sniff out the potential fox threat.

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Tom Garrett’s springer spaniel ‘Rocky’ along with renowned dog trainer Steve Austin’s ‘Emma’, ‘Tommy’ and ‘Becky’ were contracted to help manage the potential incursion of foxes onto the World Heritage Listed Area. A BAC cultural advisor was also contracted for two days during the conservation detection dog activities, in a collaborative approach to the management of K’gari.

The detection dogs’ roles over the two week period in June were to track the scent and locate potential proof that foxes are currently active on the island.  Their search area was recorded by a GPS aversive collar system which logged sixty-five kilometres of search area on the southwestern part of the Great Sandy National Park (K’gari -Fraser Island section), between Snout Point and Kingfisher Bay.  The aversion collar system also prevented the dogs from working too far from their handler, while also providing them with protection from potential dingo activity.

We are pleased to report that no foxes were detected during the survey period. It is now considered possible that the foxes ‘captured’ on camera may have coincided with mainland flood events.  It is also unlikely that a fox would last long or have the ability to den with the resident dingoes hot on their tail.  High dingo track and scat activity were observed during the project.  Cat (scat, print, scent), toad (scat) and pig (scent) were also detected during the program.  All cat tracks and fresh cat or pig scent indicated by the detection dogs were recorded and correspond with QPWS recorded observations of widespread evidence and activity of feral cat and low activity of pig on the island.

Contributed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service

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