Some important background information
Members report seeing foxes – adults and cubs – in the Wolli Valley quite regularly. Backyard chickens and some small pets can be vulnerable to fox attacks. A small family of foxes is believed to be living in the garden of an empty house in Undercliffe Rd and is responsible for killing a number of free-range chickens in May 2006. In September 2005, a fox killed two chickens in our secretary’s Bexley North backyard. In late in 2004, Rockdale Council removed an injured female fox from the Bardwell Valley near the Bexley Swimming Pool complex.
Many people are surprised to hear that foxes are present and surviving quite well in urban areas. But as local Councils and the NPWS can attest, foxes are now found in all urban bushland areas in the Sydney area, and in much higher numbers than in rural areas. Besides bushland, they can survive in rubbish tips, sand dunes, golf courses, cemeteries and other areas. They can make dens in sandstone outcrops and dense weeds, and can actually climb trees, so roosting birds as well as ground dwelling small native animals – lizards included – end up as meals. Berries from weed plants such as blackberry or privet also form part of their diet, so the spread of weeds is yet another “contribution” they make to our urban bushland areas.
If you see foxes in the Wolli or Bardwell valleys or other nearby areas let us know by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and use the attached sightings table as a guide to the information that would be helpful.
To learn more download the regional brochure about foxes (4MB).
About the European Red Fox
The European Red Fox (scientific name Vulpes vulpes) is a very versatile and adaptable animal. The fox was deliberately introduced to Australian in the mid 1800s by Europeans mistakenly trying to “improve” the Australian environment and to provide suitable targets for hunting. The earlier introduction of rabbits meant there was a ready food source for foxes and, just as rabbits did, they rapidly thrived and spread. After dingos and feral dogs, foxes are Australia’s largest terrestrial predator.
Foxes are typically reddish-brown above with a whitish chin, throat, chest and belly. They have a narrow skull and a collapsible rib-cage that enables the body to go pretty much anywhere the head can fit. Their claws are retractable, like those of cats, though they are more closely related to dogs. They have been known to chew through chicken wire and are great diggers.
Foxes set up many dens, using areas away from humans, but really only use dens when breeding. Both sexes become mature in their first year, few adult vixens are barren and the average litter size exceeds four. Cubs are born late in September and become active and visible from about the first week of December, leaving to forage on their own from February/March. Family groups have a territory of 2-5 sq km, marking it by scent with faeces and urine. Adults are mainly solitary, with a range of 8-10 sq km in urban areas, and are active for about 20 hours in every 24, but usually lie up during the day, except in winter, when food is more scarce.
While mainly carnivorous, foxes have an extremely varied diet, taking fruit, berries, small insects, carrion, eggs, birds and small animals up to 2.5kg (including guinea pigs, cats and small dogs, but not usually reptiles), they will also eat pet food and even human faeces. They can climb sloping trees, jump up about 2.5m, much higher up a mesh fence, can eat things hanging up to a metre above ground and have such good hearing that they can detect curl grubs (beetle larvae) underground. They also have a very acute sense of smell.
Fox population densities are higher in Australian urban areas than in rural ones and this may be due to a greater availability of food sources around humans. Bushy creek frontages may also be favoured, as they have a high biomass suitable as fox food.
Foxes are regularly seen in our area, particularly around the Bardwell Valley Golf Course (where sight lines are extensive), with many probable den sites being found in the Wolli Valley. They range far up into the ridge tops, possibly using the stormwater drainage system as highways to bypass our roads.
The Cooks River Foreshores Working Group has taken up the issue of fox control and is gathering information on possible control approaches. Meanwhile our Society would like to gather additional information on recent sightings of foxes in the Wolli catchment.