Foxes have not only been sighted in Glebe, they are suspected of killing two loved, and well-known, pet hens.
Earlier this year Lottie and Duchess, John and Jenny Sergeant’s pet hens, were killed during the night. ‘We found Lottie (the black hen) on our lawn in the morning, in pieces, with a lot of feathers all around the lawn and in the coop,’ Jenny said. ‘We couldn’t find Duchess anywhere, nor much sign of her feathers. The following day, she was found on the lawn of the block of flats over the road. In both cases, the head was nowhere to be found, and it surprised me that so little of the birds appeared to have been eaten by the animal that killed them’. She did not witness the attack but believes the method of their killing was consistent with a fox attack.
Their property backs onto the Glebe foreshore walk, and the hens were a popular attraction for walkers, particularly children. ‘It was very distressing for our young family and for all those who had grown accustomed to saying hello to the birds in the course of their walks,’ she said.
Jenny wrote to the City of Sydney Council, requesting they look into fox control in Glebe.
Jenny said a council person rang her and said there had been no reported sightings of foxes in Glebe and it would be more appropriate to contact the State Government.
The Glebe Society, via its Facebook page, then asked people to report any sightings. Reports came in, both on the Facebook page and in person, of sightings on Council land, particularly Bicentennial Park, on the tramline, on the streets (including the corner of Forsyth St and Avona Ave last month) and on private land. A fox has even been photographed in Glebe on Leichhardt St.
Last year Chris Dickman, Professor in Ecology from the University of Sydney, gave a talk to The Glebe Society, titled ‘The Impacts and local management of cats, dogs and foxes’.
He said he would not be surprised to find that foxes are living in Glebe as they have found safe habitats in parks and golf courses in other inner city regions. He said they compete with cats by feeding on rodents and native fauna.
John wants the council to engage a professional ‘to trap, collar and trace the fox, so that it and its family can be euthanased. Foxes do not belong in this country and certainly not in Glebe. Our pleas to Council have, however, gone unanswered. Our chickens were pets. If a cat or a dog had been dismembered in this brutal fashion, I have no doubt that Council would act’.
Two years ago 15 councils in inner, eastern and southern Sydney, together with the Royal Botanic Gardens, conducted a co-ordinated program to control foxes. At the same time they conducted a community education program, and encouraged people to report fox sightings, resulting in 362 sightings in one year. It is estimated there are 7,000 foxes in the southern Sydney region, or 10 foxes per square kilometre.
The red fox was introduced into Australia in the 1870s so people could continue the British tradition of fox hunting, memorably described by Oscar Wilde as ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable’. The foxes multiplied and spread and soon became a declared pest species because they hunt and kill native wildlife, contributing to the extinction of a number of species of small mammals and birds. They also predate on livestock including poultry and lambs, and they even pose a risk to pet animals because they can carry diseases like distemper, parvo virus and mange.
Foxes are highly-efficient hunters and scavengers and will kill more animals than they eat.
The average fox eats 136 kilograms of food each year. According to the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) they are preferential carnivores, but will eat a wide variety of food.
In urban environments over half their diet can consist of scavenged food scraps and left-over pet food. The DPI states that urban environments can support fox population densities up to 10 times greater than in rural areas.
Foxes live in family groups consisting of an adult pair and their youngest cubs. They breed once a year in spring and usually produce four cubs. The DPI states that their dens are often found under buildings, in parklands, cemeteries and in quiet back gardens.
A southern suburbs council worker, who was involved in the fox control program, said they tracked foxes with dogs. They found a number of foxes living under people’s houses, with the residents completely unaware they were living above a den of foxes.
The Glebe Society has requested the City of Sydney Council undertake a fox control program.
John Sergeant said that when a friend saw a fox at Bicentennial Park, he took his shoe off and threw it at the fox. The fox grabbed the shoe and took off with it. The moral — if you see a fox keep your shoes on and report it to the City of Sydney, or register the sighting on the foxscan website, www.feralscan.org.au/foxscan, or report it to the Glebe Society on firstname.lastname@example.org.