Outfoxed in muttonbird massacre

THE culprit responsible for killing around 40 muttonbirds on Muttonbird Island this week is now believed to be a fox.

Authorities investigating the deaths have focused their attention on the new suspect after National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) rangers discovered a lone fox near the muttonbird burrows at around 10pm on Thursday.

NPWS Coffs Coast area manager Glenn Storrie said the most important thing now was to catch the fox before it could kill again.

"Traps will be set for the animal and we are now considering other options, including baiting and shooting, to ensure this destructive pest is removed or destroyed as quickly as possible," Mr Storrie said.

"Foxes have not been seen on the island for many years and the carnage highlights the impact a single fox can have on wildlife.

"Veterinary advice received on Thursday indicated a dog may have been responsible and this is consistent with the sighting of the fox."

The birds had suffered head injuries, puncture wounds, broken wings and some had been decapitated.

Mr Storrie thanked local WIRES volunteers who discovered the dead birds and have also been assisting efforts to resolve the problem.

"The NPWS has received strong support from the community following this most unfortunate incident," he said.

"It is tremendous see how much the local community appreciates their island and it's feathered inhabitants.

"At the moment the young muttonbirds are getting ready for their long migration to South-East Asia. To help prepare for this arduous flight they come out of their burrows to exercise and strengthen their wings each night.

"The island will be remain closed at night for the next two weeks, during the fox-control operation, and until the young birds have left."

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