Are foxes eating lambs instead of rabbits

An interesting article has been shared by the ABC RuralKit Mochan questioning if a reduction in rabbit populations is pushing foxes to search out more stock and native kills. A sheep farmer and pro fox shooter sharetwo very different opinions on the topic.

Sheep farmer Ted Hill, who runs a property in West River in the Great Southern region of Western Australia, says he has never seen so many foxes on his land.

“We were out the other night … we went into a mob of sheep, drove around and we saw this fox so we shot it,” he said.

“Without moving the vehicle we shot five more just by whistling with a fox whistle, in the space of half an hour.

“I’ve got 10,000 acres. [That night] we roamed around for about four hours … and we got 21 foxes.”

“Basically for the first time in 40-odd-years I don’t believe I have a single rabbit on the place — a virus or whatever cleaned them out,” he said.

Mr Hill said he was frustrated about losing livestock.

“We’ve just done our marking, and we’re down … at least 155,” he said.

“I’ve been in the game for 50 years now … I feel like I can pick them out pretty well … [which ones were] born dead or eaten by foxes.”

Mr Hill, whose property borders the Fitzgerald National Park in Western Australia, said he had noticed a steep decline in rabbits on his block, which he believed was endangering his livestock and native animals.

The Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA) told the ABC in January the low rabbit numbers were due to theunexpected arrival of the virusRHDV-2 to Western Australia last year.

The exotic strain of calicivirus was first detected in the state in October, and can be transmitted rabbit to rabbit and by insect vectors.

Two sides to every debate

Fox-hunting business owner Graham Lawrence, who runs the Fox Buster website out of Cranbrook, said it was a common misconception that foxes ate rabbits.

He said rabbits were not high on a fox’s list.

“Before I was doing autopsies on the foxes I had the same thought, that foxes were controlling rabbit numbers,” he said.

“Over the last five years I’ve probably cut open about 600 foxes, and there’s only nine of them that I’ve managed to identify the remains of rabbits.”

Mr Lawrence said the population boom could be attributed to a good summer.

“The way we measure fox density … it does seem to have increased,” he said.

“Foxes have been really fat and healthy.”

Mr Lawrence said foxes preyed on lambs, especially when a ewe gave birth to twins and was unable to protect both.

He said the omnivores had been known to eat almost anything, including yabbies and grapes.

“They’ve been known to drag the yabby trap out of the dam and feed themselves on yabbies,” he said.

“[One grower] lost a whole vintage … because foxes stripped the grapes off his vines.”

The jury is out on this one. Have you say in the comments section.




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