Handler Tom Garrett with his fox den detection dog Rocky.
Handler Tom Garrett with his fox den detection dog Rocky.

Meet the duo protecting Mon Repos turtle nests

IN A continued effort to help protect the turtles at Mon Repos, Rocky the fox detection dog and his handler Tom Garrett have returned to the region to lend a hand to find fox dens.

Ranger in charge at Mon Repos Cathy Gately said the Ocean to Nest program started in 2014 and had proven very successful with no predation from foxes on turtle nests for four seasons.

"When we first started investigations in 2012 we found 300 known fox dens in a 4km area around Mon Repos Turtle Rookery, of those about 60 per cent were active," Ms Gately said.

"Our latest fox den audit in 2019 has shown that now we only have 50 active dens in this buffer zone."

She said this month they were expanding the buffer zone to 8km and needed locals to "dob in a fox" or allow Rocky to search properties for dens.

"At the moment it is winter breeding for foxes so it is a good time to target those areas while they are about to pair up," she said.

"It is a learned behaviour so if they're in the area and have been for a long time they have learned to find turtle nests and can teach other foxes."

Loggerhead turtles at Mon Repos. Picture: Tourism Australia
Loggerhead turtles at Mon Repos. Picture: Tourism Australia

Ms Gately said the program also had a positive flow on effect for other animals.

"Since running the program we have heard people have seen more of other native animals like bandicoots and echidnas so there has been a flow-on benefit from reducing introduced feral foxes."

Mr Garrett said he had previously trained dogs in obedience and gun trials before training Rocky to find rabbits, cats, wild dogs and foxes.

"We want to drop the fox numbers as if there is a good breeding season the fox population will climb and we want to prevent that happening," Mr Garrett said.

"We don't want the foxes to get a chance to breed and push the young ones back towards Mon Repos."

Mr Garrett said after finishing at Mon Repos at the end of May he and Rocky would continue travelling north along the East Coast detecting feral animals to protect the turtles.

"The dogs are great they cover a lot more ground and are much quicker," he said.

"If I walk 10km in a day he has probably travelled at least 45km looking for the scent to be rewarded."

Call 1300 883 699 to fill out a form to dob in a fox or allow your property to be checked for dens from Burnett Heads to Elliott Heads and back to Kalkie.