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Edition 3: Pest animals
In this edition:

You and foxes have one thing in common - you both love your chickens!

Yes, foxes and other pest animals are frequently a problem on small properties, not to mention local farms.

Pest animals such as wild dogs, foxes, rabbits and feral pigs can cause significant damage to crops, spread disease, seriously affect our livestock industries and threaten the survival of native plants and animals.

All up they have an impact of around $743.5 million each year in Australia.

The big four pests on small farms are generally considered foxes, rabbits, wild dogs and feral pigs.

Let’s have a closer look at these...

Red Fox
Red fox walking on grasss

Image: Red fox

Foxes are one of Australia’s most serious pest animals. Not only do they prey on livestock and native animals, but they also have the potential to spread exotic diseases, including rabies, which would seriously threaten livestock, wildlife and human health should it enter the country.

Footprints, fox scats (poo) and sadly missing chickens are all signs you have foxes nearby. Their urine also has a unique musky smell as well.

The most efficient way to reduce the impact of foxes is to conduct a strategic coordinated program over several landholdings.

Control methods will be limited in populated areas, but some things you can think about are trapping, baiting, shooting, exclusion fencing, guardian animals and managing food sources like dog food and scraps. An integrated pest management approach is recommended that combines the use of all suitable control tools.

Agriculture Victoria has developed a video series to explain how to implement effective fox management programs, at the right times and to the right standards.

To learn more and watch the videos, visit integrated fox control for further information

See Red Fox for more information about their characteristics and behaviour

Rabbits (feral)
Two rabbits sitting on grass

Image: European rabbits

European rabbits cause significant damage to the environment and agriculture.

They destroy pasture, crops and plant communities that impacts agriculture and the environment, contribute to soil erosion, compete with native fauna for food and habitat and promote the establishment of weed infestations. Rabbits are well suited to Australian conditions and breed prolifically.

Populations as low as one rabbit per hectare can prevent the regeneration of native tree species as they are known to eat seedlings. Without natural recruitment of native seedlings, landscapes change and deteriorate over time.

Some signs of rabbits in your area include scratching, warrens (burrows), damage to seedlings and scats.

Rabbit control is time consuming and there is no quick fix solution. You may be limited in your options in built-up areas, but successful rabbit control programs use a combination of baiting, destroying rabbit warrens (ripping) and follow up fumigation.

Agriculture Victoria has developed a video series to explain the steps of ‘the rabbit recipe’ and how to achieve long term rabbit control by implementing management programs at the right times and to the right standards.

To learn more and watch the video, visit integrated rabbit control.

Wild dogs
Wild dog walking on land

Image: Wild dog (Photo source: Lee Allen)

Any wild living dog found on private land or on public land adjacent to private land) has the potential to threaten livestock.  In Victoria, the feral and wild populations of dog and dingo-dog hybrids (commonly referred to as wild dogs) are declared as established pest animals under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 in recognition of the threat these animals pose to livestock and production on private land in rural Victoria. The dingo is protected in Victoria on most areas of public land and cannot be taken or killed without an authorisation to do so.

To allow the continued control of wild dogs where they threaten livestock production, the dingo has been declared unprotected on private land and along the boundaries of public land in wild dog management zones.

Wild dog attacks can have a devastating impact on livestock, wildlife and pets, and can be a traumatic experience for those involved.

Research has also shown that peri-urban wild dogs can carry zoonotic pathogens, which can pose a significant risk to public and livestock health.

The primary agricultural impact of wild dogs is stock losses. Sheep are not the only livestock attacked by wild dogs, often cattle and goats are also targeted.

The wild dog control program works with the community, industry and government to develop annual wild dog management zone plans to effectively reduce the impacts of wild dogs using all available tools.

Recommended control measures include non-lethal controls such as fencing, animal husbandry ,guardian animals and  olfactory methods  and lethal controls such as trapping, shooting, and baiting. Integrated pest management using all available control measures implemented in a coordinated manner at a landscape scale is the best control method to protect livestock from predation.

Domestic dog attacks on livestock can also be a serious problem in small landholdings. As a dog owner, you are liable if your dog attacks a person or another animal, so make sure your dogs are secured, especially at night.

More information:

Pig (feral or wild)
Black feral pig standing in grass

Image: Feral pig

Feral pigs are found at several locations throughout Victoria, though their populations are mostly isolated and occur at relatively low densities.

Feral pigs cause significant damage to Victoria’s environment and agriculture.

They compete for resources, damage crops, reduce stock water quality, and can even predate on young livestock.

Feral pigs also pose a significant biosecurity risk as they can spread exotic animal diseases like foot-and-mouth disease or African swine fever should they ever enter Australia.

Recommended control measures include baiting, trapping, ground shooting and exclusion fencing. Like any pest, using a strategic pest management plan using multiple control tools implemented in a coordinated manner at a landscape scale provide the best results.

Agriculture Victoria has developed a video series to explain how to implement effective feral pig management programs at the right times and to the right standards.

To learn more and watch the videos, visit integrated feral pig control.

Start planning your pest management program today

Pest animal control is most effective when done in collaboration with your neighbours, so be sure to check in with your neighbours and work together. Depending on your control method, you also may have a legal obligation to inform your neighbours.

It’s also important to know if your program is having an impact, so monitoring for pest animals using trail cameras and looking for tracks and scats is a valuable exercise.

In the next edition, we will take a closer look at the impacts and management of weeds. 

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Further reading

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