Image for Christmas Eve Fox Report: Shit happens, but still no foxes!

Not one scientist working in DPIWE or the Invasive Animals CRC in the course of the PAC hearings or elsewhere has logically explained or rebutted the serious claims of fox evidence fabrication and the assumptions stemming from those fabrications.

1. The testimony presented to the committee by DPIWE officials (see PAC website) about the circumstances surrounding several high profile fox incidents was changed substantially (on several occasions) from that originally presented to the general public at the time of these incidents. These changes of fact seriously undermined the veracity (as conveyed in DPIWE media releases) of the original incident reports and questioned the thoroughness and transparency in the investigation of the incidents.

2. For the last 3 years (since the so-called Glen Esk Road fox road kill incident in August 2006)  three separate $1000 fox rewards have been genuinely and publicly offered to anyone in Tasmania who would present a freshly trapped or killed fox for examination with a personal verification of the incident. Despite many professional game management hunters and farmers being aware of these rewards, no one has come forward with a fox.

3. In all the years despite the publicity of serious concerns about the fox evidence, not once has any DPIWE biologists explained logically how the presence of physical fox remains could be scientifically shown to validate that live foxes living were the sources of that evidence.

4. In all the years of the program there has not been one scientific, peer-reviewed publication which has logically and reasonably made the scientific case that supports the link between any investigated fox incident in Tasmania and the allegation that foxes are now free-ranging and breeding in Tasmania.

5. In no testimony offered by the DPIWE officials or their support scientists from the Invasive Animals CRC explained how the arbitrary use of buried 1080-laced meat baits WILL eradicate foxes in the face of so much available carrion and natural foods.

6. The PAC members were informed there are up to 8 (perhaps more) different foxes all defecating in Tasmania (the latest count is 15) - based purely on DNA-positive fox scat retrievals. Despite this publicity, no scat recovered - now over 40 in total confirmed by DNA to be from foxes - had the same DNA - i.e. confirming they came from the same fox. It seems the FEP has been unsuccessful in retrieving any more than one scat from the same fox in areas surveilled by fox-scat detector dogs.

7. The PAC members were informed that there were fox scats recovered in Tasmania that were conformed to be deposited by both male and female animals. Despite this fact being disclosed there has been no detection of any confirmed fox habitation sites, natal dens (breeding) or other evidence of fox establishment.

8. The PAC members were informed that no hairs characteristic of a Tasmanian endemic species of native mammal were detected in the 40-plus scats analysed; in particular no hairs of the very abundant Tasmanian pademelon - a species that became extinct in Victoria within a few decades after the establishment of foxes during the early part of last century and a macropod species commonly found dead on Tasmanian roads.

9. The public statements offered by DPIWE officials regarding fox incidents (namely Mr Gary Davies) were questioned by other departmental staff giving evidence before the committee. Numerous discrepancies in the timing of events related to the transfer of an allegedly road-killed dead fox to Launceston for various veterinary examinations are evident. These discrepancies are at odds with testimonies given to the PAC committee and question the reliability of those witnesses.

10. Despite the passage of well over 8 years since the Longford fox sighting and over 11 years since the escape of a fox from a Bass Strait freight ferry into Burnie in 1998; and over 8 years since the ‘unsubstantiated’ allegation of multiple fox releases at four separate locations across Tasmania there has been no compelling incident undeniably involving a fox that could stand unchallenged, unfettered by scepticism and unequivocally factual.

11. On testimony to the PAC despite the deployment of hundreds of remote sensor cameras and use of attractant scent bait stations, no images of a fox has been taken in Tasmania.  A number of individuals, who have now left the fox program and other individuals who had been verballed or misrepresented in media releases prepared by DPIWE, should have been asked to provide written statements or subpoenaed to appear before the PAC inquiry particularly when serious allegations were made of fabrication of physical evidence (e.g. fox scat & fox carcass discoveries and use of fox attractants known to contain fox DNA).

12. At least one independent and knowledgeable fox biologist with direct experience with the Tasmania fox program - Dr Clive Marks - should have been asked to appear before the committee. [Dr Marks provided a written submission to the inquiry.]

13. This publicly-funded program has been providing millions of dollars to the DPIWE ($30 million is cited) for the better part of a decade. Even based on the assumption that the red fox is at very low numbers; in all that time the foxes that the Department states are here have remained particularly well hidden…never trapped in a chicken run, never killed by reliable or non-anonymous person and never filmed or photographed. 

14. The credibility of this program ultimately comes back to the publicly funded program. Despite the high staffing levels, sophisticated technologies and collaborations with experienced Australian operatives, this program has not proven that the fox exhibits collected over nine years are undeniable evidence of fox presence and establishment in Tasmania. Not one UTAS or DPIWE biologist or zoologist has offered the PAC professional support or a scientific endorsement of the assumptions and constructions about fox presence in Tasmania based on 9 years of operation.

As letter writer Syd Dwyer of Sandy Bay succinctly put it in today’s (24 December) Examiner newspaper:

“It stands to reason that something cannot be eradicated unless it exists!”