FOXES are finding their next meal in the backyards of semi-rural homes, as more people return to keeping chickens on their properties.
The predator with a taste for poultry has noted the lifestyle change and a decline in rabbit populations as a source of easy prey.
Healthy Environments officer Jacqueline Lucas said foxes living in periurban areas was not new and while their numbers were not increasing, people were becoming more aware of their presence because of the increase in backyard coops.
“This attracts the fox and once the fox has discovered chickens in the yard, they will always come back to see if they can get to eat them,” she said. “Another factor is the release of the RHDV1 – K5 variant of the calici virus across the South-West in March this year.
“This has decreased the population of rabbits, so foxes have been looking elsewhere for a food source, which has forced them to move into areas where previously they may not have been seen to get their food. Hunger has made them bolder, and hence more visible.”
Ms Lucas works for the Wheatbelt Natural Resource Management not-for-profit group and keeps chickens on her Northam property.
“People who keep chickens need to have a coop secured with wire fencing dug under the coop and over the roof because foxes will dig deep to reach food for their families,” she said.
“They will frequently circuit an area where there may be food and when they find some, they will return repeatedly. There is a lot of truth in the saying ‘as cunning as a fox’ and when they can’t find chickens, they will attack native animals.”
She said Australia has the highest rate of mammal extinction in the world due to deaths brought about by foxes and cats and the rabbit population was significantly lower in the Perth Hills following the latest virus release.
Volunteers have removed more than 3000 feral animals across the South-West this year, of which 2428 were foxes.
Teams of shooters and area organisers are required in 2018 to cull in the areas of Northam, York and Toodyay.
Visit www.redcard.org.au or call 9670 3113.