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Does Culling Work?

Fox carcasses are often strung up along fences, reminding landholders in the area of the continuing threat they pose to livestock. Credit: mattinbgn

Fox carcasses are often strung up along fences, reminding landholders in the area of the continuing threat they pose to livestock. Credit: mattinbgn

By Thomas Newsome, Lily van Eeden, Billie Lazenby & Christopher Dickman

Culling of pests such as foxes, feral cats and dingoes can have unexpected and completely undesirable effects.

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Wildlife managers face the twin tasks of monitoring animal populations and intervening to correct their numbers if they are perceived to be heading in the wrong direction. On the one hand, declining populations may be targeted for recovery, especially if they represent threatened species or have other values that we wish to maintain. On the other hand, rapidly increasing or already-overabundant populations will often be subject to control.

“Traditional” pest species such as rabbits and foxes fall into this latter category, but so too do native species such as koalas and large kangaroos at certain times or locations. Culling is often advocated to reduce population numbers.

Culling is a management option that aims to remove some animals from a population and thereby reduce to acceptable levels the damage that they appear to be causing. However, what is considered “acceptable damage” varies greatly. Thus, modest culling of fox populations may be sufficient in sheep-grazing areas, especially at times when no lambs are present and at risk of being killed, but more aggressive culling might be needed if small or threatened populations of wildlife need to be protected.

In Sydney, for example, the small and endangered population of little penguins at Manly is sometimes exposed to marauding foxes. Here, the loss of any penguins is likely to compromise the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.