‘Are your fox collars brown with a big black lump on one side?’ asked the woman on the phone.
‘Yup, sounds like them. Why?’
‘Umm, I’ve got one here. My friend found it on a dead fox on the road.’
Damn, damn. At that stage, I only had collars on two foxes and now I was back to one again.
I picked the collar up from her friend’s letterbox on my next field trip and sure enough it was Fern’s. Talk about a death-wish! The first fox I ever caught, she had been slightly too small to collar back in December, just an over-grown cub. Then I had re-caught her in late January and been so happy to find that she’d gained enough weight to fit with a GPS collar.
‘Gully’ – the other fox I had collared at the time
Six Melbourne Uni boffins –
We hail from Creswick-town –
Had organised an info day
To share results around.
We decided to call him Gammy.
He was a feisty old fox, with worn teeth and a stiff ankle where a once-broken bone had healed. It was the second-last day of my field trip and I’d been debating whether to pull the traps in as I drove up the road. We had already checked them at dawn and caught nothing, but here was Gammy at 11 o’clock in the morning – my fourth fox of the week.
Gammy after being fitted with a radio-collar (Photo: Lauren Engledow)
It’s dark. It’s raining (it nearly always is – this area gets over two metres rainfall a year). The chunky 4WD tyres are slick with mud. And in front of us is a sign with huge red letters: NO TRESSPASSING. KEEP OUT. And a high barb-wired fence. Damn.
We’re looking for Rush. Rush is a young male fox I fitted with a GPS tracking collar a month ago. He used to live in a small patch of recently burnt forest, holing up in a tree-fern gully during the day and then scouting through the bush and nearby paddocks overnight. A concise home-range, only a kilometre across, which overlapped neatly with Cinnamon’s – I suspect they are siblings. But this morning his collar sent me an email from a completely new location, nearly 4 km from where he’s been before (very funky technology, this! Saves me an incredible amount of driving in circles looking for non-existent foxes).
Rush-the-fox, shortly after I fitted him with a tracking collar (Photo: Lauren Engledow)