USDA National Wildlife Research Center Symposia


Date of this Version

August 2007


Published in: Witmer, G. W., W. C. Pitt, and K. A. Fagerstone, editors. 2007. Managing vertebrate invasive species: proceedings of an international symposium. USDA/APHIS Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. Also available online at


The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) has wreaked havoc on mainland Australia’s environment and agricultural production since its introduction in the 1870s. Over the same period, the southern Australian island State of Tasmania has remained virtually fox-free, allowing its unique biodiversity to remain relatively pristine. Recently, an unknown number of foxes were deliberately or accidentally introduced to Tasmania. Some of those animals and possibly their progeny now live in the wild in Tasmania. Finding foxes in a state the size of Tasmania presents special problems for wildlife managers, but is essential to prevent their establishment in this stronghold for Australian marsupials. To assist in finding foxes in Tasmania, we have developed DNA detection approaches specifically for foxes that utilize the ubiquitous mitochondrial DNA found on the surface of mammal scats. Using these approaches, fox DNA has been detected in three different regions in Tasmania and have provided the basis for intense control efforts in those areas. We are now expanding our approach to include other predatory mammals of interest (including both native marsupials and other introduced mammals) and increasing the breadth and scope of our surveys.