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

The program, a joint initiative of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Land and Property Management Authority (LPMA) 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 that Mobbs Bay, in Richmond River Nature Reserve, will be included in the program for the first time this year due to its importance to shorebirds.

“Mobbs Bay has a range of habitat, including mangroves and wetlands that provide habitat for shorebirds including threatened Beach Stone-curlews, Pied Oystercatchers and numerous migratory species to forage, roost and breed,” Ms North said.

“1080 baits will be laid in the coastal area between the Richmond River and 10 Mile Beach in Bundjalung National Park from July 5 to December 19 2010. All areas including the beach that are baited will be signposted.

“While 1080 fox baits are designed to kill foxes, they can also kill dogs, so it is important that people only take their dogs to areas that are designated dog exercise areas.

“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.”

Ms North said 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,” she said.

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

“Last year 10 young Pied Oystercatchers fledged in this area.”

* Australian Seabird Rescue is looking for wardens to assist beach users to minimise impacts to breeding birds at high priority sites. This initiative has been funded by Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority. Interested people should contact ASR for further information at admin@seabirdrescue.org.