For 3 years, wildlife conservationists have been in pursuit of an elusive fox deep in predator heaven — a wildlife haven in the Pilliga conservation reserve in north-west NSW — however they remain committed to capturing it.
- The fox has the race of a 5,800 hectare fenced off area of the Pilliga wooded area
- Wildlife conservationists have spent “tens of thousands” of hours looking for “Rambo”
- Once he is removed, the Pilliga can be a “haven” for near-extinct mammals
The fox, nicknamed “Rambo”, after the lead character from the 1982 movie First Blood, is trapped in the wooded area, a 5,800-hectare fenced area about 90 minutes’ power south-west of Narrabri, that ought to be a safe place for near-extinct native animals.
“It’s been a lengthy battle,” Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC) Wayne Lawler said.
“He’s a particularly reclusive animal. He shies away from any human interaction.
“There have been varied animals in the fenced area after we locked it up and we now have been able to successfully eradicate those within a reasonably mercurial timeframe however Rambo continues to evade our capture effort.
The fox, believed to be a three-year-frail male, has avoided almost 3,000 baits; shooters have spent 465 hours hunting him and scent-tracking canines have been unable to find him after three weeks.
Drones and aerial shoots have also arrive up short.
“He’s no typical fox,” Mr Lawler said.
The average lifespan of a pink fox is five to six years, however “waiting Rambo out siege-fashion” was no longer the answer.
There are 97 cameras dotted around the wooded area and Rambo turns up each three months or so.
When he has been photographed, it be almost as if he is posing.
“So we now have blended our cameras up, moved them 500 metres or so away from the place they have been and we now have started picking him up again.”
Haven repopulation behind time table
Whereas the intriguing cat-and-mouse game is frustrating would-be captors, it has also held up the reintroduction of regionally extinct mammals to the Pilliga Woodland by about 18 months.
Small populations of bridled nailtail wallabies and greater bilbies have started breeding in the wooded area however some varied mammals “haven’t been in this area for 80 to 100 years”, Mr Lawler said.
“They’re in a 680-hectare safe haven area however having Rambo in the broader fenced area is halting the reintroductions of another five species,” he said.
“[They’ll] scramble in there as quickly as we effect away with Rambo.”
Scent-tracking canines are again on region for the following 10 days, pursuing Rambo in the thick bushland.
“We have now had two interactions with [scent-tracking dogs] in the past, so that’s our next handiest option,” Mr Lawler said.