Dispersal of the introduced red fox (Vulpes vulpes) across Australia

  • Russell J. FairfaxEmail author
Original Paper


Imported from Great Britain, the current Australian population of red foxes was predominantly founded by three separate deliberate releases for naturalisation around 1871, all in the far south-east of the continent. Successful establishment was first noted in 1874, thence the appearance of a red fox anywhere else in Australia was newsworthy until the early 1930s in the north and far south-west; over 3000 km distant. This study reconstructs dispersal from nearly 800 such newspaper accounts, over half of which were expressly ‘the first fox’ with the remainder the first record. All concord. Data shows eight deliberate releases pre-1900 and their fate, including three failures in Tasmania. Another two releases are implied by sightings. Interpretation of proximate chronological records reveals nine paths of initial spread over eastern Australia south of the southern tropics. Many had converged by 1900. Eleven five-yearly contours of the frontier are mapped across the continent advancing the known temporal frontier, especially in the north-east. Slower progress clearly occurred on coastal ranges compared to semi-arid regions if not their watercourses. Colonisation transcended many habitats, severe drought and control efforts targeting the fox and its key predator Canis dingo, to literally follow naturalisation by the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). The public resource utilised contains tremendous potential to further our understanding of foxes; indeed many alien, native, migratory, plague or endangered species.


Colonisation Exotic Invasion Naturalisation Newspapers 



The TROVE initiative and contributors. Professor Kim King and an anonymous reviewer are thanked for comments.

Supplementary material

10530_2018_1897_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (95 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 95 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia

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