IN THE most recent fox report, we’re told a property owner in the hills behind Old Beach reported a suspicious animal raiding and killing his chooks.

The Fox Taskforce set up bait stations, cameras and sand pads in an attempt to catch some evidence of the predator. Apparently they got visual evidence of quoll and Tasmanian devil but not fox.

According to one newspaper report it was the owner who strung up a barbed wire trap in an attempt to catch a hair sample; according to another report it was prepared by a Taskforce officer. Anyway, we’re told ‘the property owner reported finding blood spattered on the ground, apparently where the barbs had scratched the animal’. No hair but the blood was DNA tested to be from a fox. 

The inference from this sample was that there’s at least one fox in the vicinity of Old Beach, perhaps in the Meehan Ranges.

But was this cry of fox on the eve of a State Budget genuine and was its timing just coincidence? We know that the authorities knew the result at least a week before the publicity. They had the place under surveillance for a lot longer.

Interested readers might recall another fox incident at Lillico Beach in the early days of the last State election (February 2006). Now we know that none of the 23 animals scats collected by the Taskforce in the Lillico Beach area as a follow up to this incident was from a fox.

These incidents again show the need for the authorities to treat any suspicious fox incident as a Crime Scene Investigation (CSI). At a CSI collecting physical evidence of suspicion (e.g. DNA evidence) is only the start. Supporting evidence (e.g. a photograph or a body) is fairly essential to progress the investigation. Without clear corroboration and in circumstances where fabrication or falsification of evidence can’t be discounted, there should be lingering doubt for the investigators. 

In the aftermath of several highly publicised incidents involving fox exhibits, successive Ministers [Llewellyn(1998-02), Green (2002-04), Jackson & Kons (2004-06) and Llewellyn (2006)] and the Department [DPIW now without the Environment!] have had difficulty in sustaining public confidence in the Fox-Free Tasmania program.

The authorities desperately need clear, unambiguous corroboration to back up their forensic evidences. The Mercury journalist, Rohan Wade has been covering this story for years. He recently reviewed the fox timeline going back to 1998 and showed that hoaxed fox evidence has happened before.

If this incident is the “Real McCoy” and more than just a pre-budget media story, surely it warrants a full-blooded response from the authorities. Is it again time to get the Police CIB to assist the wildlife biologists and the rangers in their investigations?

Minister Llewellyn keeps saying it’s serious but there is the problem of the government crying ‘fox’ too often. Could this explain the general public’s confusion? They don’t know what to believe anymore.

David Obendorf

Minister Llewellyn keeps saying it’s serious but there is the problem of the government crying ‘fox’ too often. Could this explain the general public’s confusion? They don’t know what to believe anymore.