A preliminary study assessing risk to Tasmanian devils from poisoning for red foxes
Hughes, C and Gaffney, R and Dickman, CR, A preliminary study assessing risk to Tasmanian devils from poisoning for red foxes, The Journal of Wildlife Management, 75, (2) pp. 385-392. ISSN 0022-541X (2011) [Refereed Article]
The recent introduction of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) to Australia's island state of Tasmania represents a major threat to native fauna. In response, the Tasmanian government has begun a fox eradication program using Foxoff®, a bait containing the poison sodium monofluoroacetate (commonly known as 1080). The bait is potentially attractive to native Tasmanian carnivores as well as to foxes. Of particular concern is the endangered Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), which is already at risk from an emergent infectious disease, devil facial tumor disease (DFTD). In both a captive and a field study using non-toxic Foxoff bait, we assessed bait palatability and possible effects of demographics, hunger level, bait age, and bait burial method on the likelihood of bait uptake by Tasmanian devils. Captive devils showed varying interest in the bait, but wild devils appeared to find it uniformly palatable. In the captive study, males and younger, captive-born animals were more likely to excavate and remove bait. Subterranean burial at 15 cm was the most effective deterrent to bait excavation; effectiveness decreased at shallower depths and with surface-level bait buried beneath soil mounds. Our findings suggest that the current fox-baiting campaign may negatively impact individual devils. More extensive study is necessary to assess potential risk at the population level.