Rambo, the sly young fox, is believed to be a three-year-old male; he has avoided almost 3,000 baits; shooters have spent 465 hours hunting him, and scent-tracking dogs were unable to find him after three weeks.
“For three years, wildlife conservationists have been in pursuit of an elusive fox deep in predator heaven — a wildlife haven in the Pilliga conservation reserve in north-west NSW — but they remain committed to capturing it”.
The ABC recently told the story of a fox that does not want to get found inside a5,800-hectare fenced area about 90 minutes’ drive south-west of Narrabri, that should be a safe place for near-extinct native animals.
“It’s been a long battle,” Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC) Wayne Sparrow said.
“He’s a particularly reclusive animal. He shies away from any human interaction.
“There were other animals in the fenced area when we locked it up and we’ve been able to successfully eradicate those within a reasonably quick timeframe, but Rambo continues to evade our capture effort.
“He’s only been sighted twice [by people] in three years despite literally tens of thousands of hours trying to find this animal.”
Drones and aerial shoots have also come up short.
“He’s no typical fox,” Mr Sparrow said.
The average lifespan of a red fox is five to six years, but “waiting Rambo out siege-style” was not the answer.
“He’s grown up with diminishing pressure from other foxes and he is now the sole predator in that area, so he’s got an abundance of food and water,” Mr Sparrow said.
There are 97 cameras dotted around the forest and Rambo turns up every three months or so.
When he has been photographed, it’s almost as if he’s posing.
“We worked out earlier this year that he was aware of our camera locations and was actively avoiding them,” Mr Sparrow said.
“So, we’ve mixed our cameras up, moved them 500 metres or so away from where they were, and we’ve started picking him up again.”
While the intriguing cat-and-mouse game is frustrating would-be captors, it has also held up the reintroduction of regionally extinct mammals to the Pilliga Forest by about 18 months.