Name: Vulpes vulpes

Native Range: Europe, North Africa, parts of Asia, parts of North America

Karen Bullock / Flickr

Karen Bullock / Flickr

Introduction: Known for their luscious red coats, European red foxes were intentionally introduced in Australia in the 1850s for recreational hunting and have since spread across most of the continent. They were also introduced in the eastern United States and can be found throughout the country. It can survive in a wide variety of environments, including tundra, deserts, and disturbed areas, indicating that the species is exceptionally good at adapting to its surroundings. They continue to expand their range, and are now the most widely distributed carnivore in the world. 

Why are they harmful?: In Australia, red foxes have decimated populations of native rodent and marsupial species. One study showed that the removal of red foxes greatly increased numbers of the near-threatened black-footed rock-wallaby, indicating foxes had a negative impact on their populations. In Tasmania, studies show that red foxes prey on 77 different types of native species, including 10 threatened species. In North America red foxes pose a great threat to ground-nesting birds such as duck and grouse. This is all in addition to being a threat to poultry, small farm animals, and children. 

Methods of control: There are some effective management strategies that exist, but they are quite expensive. The most commonly used method is fox baiting, which involves setting baits with 1080 poison. This has relatively successful results, but it costs $1.3 million to bait an area 35,000 sq km in size for a year. Exclusionary fencing helps keep foxes out of unwanted areas, but that is pricy too — about $10,000 per km. 

Sources: Tasmanian Government, ISSG, Columbia

Photo credit (cover photo): Karen Bullock