Resolution on the Introduction of Red Foxes in Tasmania

WHEREAS, the world community of mammalogists recognizes the distinctive and unique nature of Australia's mammalian fauna; and

WHEREAS, nearly one-half (16 of 33) of the world's mammals that have become extinct in the past 200 years have been from the continent of Australia; and

WHEREAS, within the past few years, the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) may have become established in Tasmania as a result of an introduction apparently involving the release of about 19 red foxes in at least 3 different locations, including the Tasman Peninsula in southeastern Tasmania and the northwestern coast of Tasmania near Somerset, and it is estimated that there may be as many as 30-40 free ranging red foxes in Tasmania; and

WHEREAS, until this introduction of red foxes, Tasmania had been a fox-free refuge for marsupials, rodents, and ground-nesting birds, which have become threatened, endangered, or extinct on mainland Australia; and

WHEREAS, on mainland Australia, the roll call of extinct, endangered, and threatened mammals negatively affected by red foxes is considerable, including the eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus), Tasmanian bettong (Bettonga gaimardi) and Tasmanian pademelon (Thylogale billardierii)--extinct; the eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii)--endangered; and the long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus), southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus), duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) and New Holland mouse (Pseudomys novaehollandiae)-threatened; and

WHEREAS, at least 1 nationally endangered mammalian species (eastern barred bandicoot), 1 nationally threatened mammalian species (spotted-tailed quoll, Dasyurus maculatus) and 2 state threatened mammalian species (southern brown bandicoot, and New Holland mouse) on Tasmania, as well as numerous nonmammalian species that are rare or declining on Tasmania, potentially could be driven to extinction by the exotic red fox in a matter of years; and

WHEREAS, even mammalian species that are considered secure at present (e.g., Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus laniarius; long-nosed potoroo) or are of conservation concern, such as eastern quoll and Tasmanian bettong, easily could become threatened because of predation and competition from red foxes; and

WHEREAS, the Australian mainland has been forced to deal with devastating effects of the introduction of exotic species for over 100 years, and the States and Commonwealth continue to spend huge amounts of money in futile attempts at controlling red foxes with Compound 1080 and other highly toxic pesticides, shooting, fences, and other measures; and

WHEREAS, the population of red foxes in Tasmania is still relatively small and could be contained with a unified and immediate effort, but with a reproductive output of 4-10 pups per litter, red foxes will be out of control in a matter of a few years, and Tasmania will have an ecological disaster of national and international consequence, and the control effort required at that time would be as formidable as that on the mainland;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the American Society of Mammalogists, meeting at their 83rd Annual Meeting at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, 21-25 June 2003 recommend the Federal and Tasmanian governments immediately and aggressively deal with containing the spread of red foxes on Tasmania, with the ultimate goal being the removal of all red foxes from Tasmania (except as appropriate at zoological parks and scientific institutions). We further encourage the strengthening of the penalty for unlawful introductions of exotic species and lengthening the statute of limitations on such crimes. We believe such measures will help ensure the conservation of the unique mammalian fauna of Tasmania for future generations.