UPDATE, Tuesday, 12.30pm: A Parks Victoria chief has defended fox baiting in the Belfast Coastal Reserve as being an essential program.
Parks Victoria area chief ranger Michael Smith said foxes were pests.
“The red fox is a declared pest animal, a proficient killer and a serious threat to many bird and animal species," he said.
“Parks Victoria undertakes fox-baiting programs across Victoria as it is a known effective method for fox control.
“Fox baiting programs are publicly advertised, signposted and communicated to neighbouring properties. The programs are undertaken to strict guidelines and targeted at locations which fox-mapping indicate are the most frequented areas.”
Mr Smith said baits were laid between 150 and 200 metres from the closest park boundary.
"They are also buried 150mm into the ground so that birds cannot dig them up," he said.
“There is no evidence to suggest fox baiting is linked to bird deaths. Investigations by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning into bird deaths across southern Victoria suggest they are likely to be of natural causes due to a bird population boom-and-bust event.
“Both 1080 and PAPP bait types naturally degrade in the environment, and are checked and replaced at a minimum of every 14 days.
“The active ingredient in the baits, sodium fluoroacetate, does not persist in biologically active systems such as soil, water and living organisms.”
Mr Smith said Parks Victoria would continue to undertake conservation programs that protect the Belfast Coastal Reserve from pest animals.
“As dogs are a significant threat to shorebirds such as the Hooded Plover, we ask owners to ensure their dogs are kept under control on the reserve," he said.
Last week: A new Western Victorian MP has met with concerned residents in Killarney about fox baiting.
Upper house member for Western Victoria Bev McArthur said residents received a notice from Parks Victoria a week ago concerning a new fox baiting program.
"Baits had already been laid on January 30. What sort of consultation is this?" Mrs McArthur said.
"Why are Parks Vic laying poisonous bates anyway? To supposedly save plovers from foxes. However, over an extended period, other animals have been victims of their poisoning program.
"During an intensified baiting program from September to October last year, Parks Victoria used 1080 poison resulting in the deaths of barn owls, wedge tailed eagles, kites and even domestic dogs."
Mrs McArthur questioned who knew what other animals died as a result of this poison that is problematic unless used in very controlled situations.
"Public spaces can never be controlled environments," she said.
"Clearly, Parks Victoria have admitted their own failure by recently changing their poison of choice, from 1080 to para-amino propiophenone (PAPP).
"While Parks Victoria claim that PAPP baits are more humane there is no evidence that Parks Victoria actually removed the existing 1080 baits which continue to cause non-target animal deaths."
Mrs McArthur questestioned what evidence could Parks Victoria provide which pointed to an out-of-control fox population to warrant the baiting program in the first place?
"Interestingly, the plovers were nesting happily in the Belfast Reserve when recreational horse riding and off-leash dogs were present in the dunes," she said.
"Since Parks Victoria fenced off dune areas, for plover nesting sites, thereby restricting horse and dog movement, foxes have no doubt gained easier access to the plovers.
"The mismanagement of the Belfast Coastal Reserve is yet another classic case of bureaucratic overkill, emanating from within the tram tracks of Melbourne.
"Indeed, the administration of the area is counter-intuitive to the very slogan of Parks Victoria - Healthy
Parks, Healthy People as the welfare of both animals and people in the Killarney region are disregarded, even disadvantaged.
The new upper house MP called for a return to a common-sense approach for the management of the Belfast Coastal Reserve which would see a better outcome for plovers, the environment and the local community without the need for dangerous poisons in public places.
Mrs McArthur called on the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D'Ambrosio to justify this new baiting program that would be in place for the next 18 months.
She said there was no evidence that the old, very dangerous 1080 baits had been removed.
"The Belfast Coastal Reserve Management Plan, which is yet to be gazetted, has serious and considerable questions that are as yet unanswered," she said.
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