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Researchers discover foxes’ eating habits









New research has shown sheep make up the biggest part of a foxes’ diet, but they also have a liking for mulberries and figs. Murdoch University researchers gathered the information from community fox shoots held in March 2010, and funded by Wheatbelt NRM. Three honours students investigated the gut contents of more than 500 foxes and 50 feral cats, as well as examining intestinal parasite load and skull structure to estimate age. Student Heather Crawford said sheep overwhelmingly made up the biggest part of their diet. “More than half the foxes collected had eaten sheep, although this varied from district to district,” Heather Crawford said. “For example, that figure jumped to 78 per cent in the Nyabing district, while in Corrigin it was less than 10 per cent.” The results also revealed insects, beetles and moths were favourite foods. “Not surprisingly small native animals such as marsupials, lizards and frogs were also on the menu,” Heather Crawford said. Jesse Forbes-Harper discovered that around half the red foxes shot were juveniles aged between six and nine months. “Fewer adults were caught, either because there were less of them, or they were too smart to be caught”. Narelle Dybing found a number of intestinal parasites in both foxes and feral cats. “Fortunately the parasite responsible for hydatid disease was not present,” she said. Rebecca Palumbo from Wheatbelt NRM said the research highlighted the importance of feral animal culls like the WA State Government Funded Red Card for Rabbits and Foxes program. “Already this March we’ve seen another successful culling and baiting program,” Rebecca Palumbo said. “While the final tally is still being counted, we already know that more than 20 community groups have participated with well over 1500 foxes and rabbits collected.” The program involves landholders from Mingenew in the north west to Ravensthorpe in the south east, targeting foxes, wild cats and rabbits. Media Contact: Rebecca Palumbo, WNRM, 9690 2250 or 0428 834 926