TASMANIA’S $3.1 million-a-year fox taskforce should hunt for feral cats as well as foxes, a leading fox sceptic argued yesterday.
Launceston MLC Ivan Dean said he could not say categorically that there were no foxes in Tasmania but $3 million a year for a fox hunt could not be justified.
Mr Dean said the 43-person Fox Eradication Branch should use its power to combat feral cats, watch out for Tasmanian devils and help in other environmental challenges.
“Feral cats, they are a real problem, they carry disease and are killing hundreds of tonnes of native wildlife,” he said.
Mr Dean said despite the call for government budget cuts, there was no sign of restraint at the fox program, which was contemplating the purchase of new firearms.
Acting Environment, Parks and Heritage Minister Scott Bacon said the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment was reviewing the taskforce’s firearm inventory.
“No decision has been made at this time as to whether any firearms held by the program will be changed,” Mr Bacon said.
He said the taskforce destroyed feral cats where possible but it could not be distracted from its core responsibility to eradicate foxes.
Since it was set up in 2002, the program has failed to find a fox. Its systematic baiting program has been spurred on by a string of fox sightings and fox scat discoveries.
A dead fox found on a road near Conara in August 2006 was widely dismissed as a hoax.
The eradication program was expanded two months later.
Mr Bacon said evidence gathered over the past decade that confirmed the presence of foxes in the state made continued action essential.