piedThe annual fox baiting program is about to commence on the North Coast from South Wall at Ballina to approximately 6.5km south of the Black Rocks Camping Area in Bundjalung National Park.

1080 baits will be laid in the coastal area between the Richmond River and 10 Mile Beach in Bundjalung National Park from 6th July to 18th December 2009.

The program, a joint initiative of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Department of Lands and North Coast Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA), has been successful in increasing fledgling numbers of one of the most significant bird populations in the area, the Pied Oystercatcher.

NPWS Ranger, Holly North, said it is important that people only take their dogs to areas that are designated dog exercise areas. 1080 baits will not be laid in or in the vicinity of these dog exercise areas to ensure responsible pet owners are able to exercise their dogs safely.

“While 1080 baits are designed to kill foxes they will also kill dogs. Beach areas that are baited will be signposted,” she said.

“The co-operation of beach users in avoiding disturbance to shorebirds on the beach or dunes is crucial to the survival of the population.

“In particular four-wheel-drive vehicles should time their trips to the beach to ensure they only drive at low tide to avoid driving above the high tide mark where Pied Oystercatchers nest.

Of course this is common sense, but it is not uncommon to see drivers caught out by incoming tides. They should also keep an eye out for Pied Oystercatcher chicks that have the unfortunate habit of sheltering in wheel ruts.

“The fox is the Pied Oystercatcher’s main predator, as they seek out clutches of eggs laid in shallow depressions in sand dunes just above the high tide mark. The baiting program aims to reduce fox numbers prior to the Pied Oystercatcher’s breeding season, which begins in August.

“The state population of Pied Oystercatchers is only about 250 individuals and the South Ballina to Iluka population is identified as a state-wide priority in the Fox Threat Abatement Plan.

“The 20 breeding pairs between South Ballina and Iluka are therefore extremely significant for preservation of the species. It is encouraging that of the 30 hatchlings last year, 13 young Pied Oystercatchers fledged.”