Fox-catching spaniels come to the rescue of baby turtles at Mon Repos

Fox-catching spaniels come to the rescue of baby turtles at Mon Repos

Fox-catching spaniels come to the rescue of baby turtles at Mon Repos

Updated 25 August 2017, 6:15 AEST

Two English springer spaniels are coming to the rescue of baby turtles by outfoxing their predators at Queensland's most significant hatchery.

While their brothers and sisters may have been trained to sniff out cocaine and cash, Sophie and Rocky are busy hunting foxes at Mon Repos on Bundaberg's coast.

"The dogs … track those foxes back to the dens and then we assist with den fumigation, and hopefully that helps," dog handler Tom Garrett said.

"The foxes predate, or have in the past predated heavily, on turtle nests and hatchling turtles as they're making their way to the ocean."

Predation rate down to zero

The 1.6 kilometre stretch of beach at Mon Repos is the most important breeding site for loggerhead turtles in the South Pacific, with about 200,000 turtles hatching each season.

In 2012, 44 turtle clutches were destroyed by foxes with an average of 100-120 eggs per clutch, the State's Department of Environment and Heritage Protection found.

Sophie and Rocky, however, are proving an overwhelming success in the three years they have been visiting Mon Repos for the State and Federally-funded program.

"The dogs love it," Mon Repos Turtle Conservation Park wildlife ranger Nikki Murnane said.

"I'm not sure they know they're protecting the turtles but they certainly enjoy their work.

"The predation of the eggs — we had none last year from foxes.

"[Foxes] have an amazing sense of smell and they can find the clutches down on the beach.

"They can dig them up and it's a good feed for them."

Mr Garrett and fellow handler David Berman have mapped hundreds of dens over the past three years.

Today, few dens are found.

Once the dens are tracked down by the dogs, the rangers blast it with a carbon monoxide treatment.

"It burns away inside the den," Mr Garrett said.

"We seal the den entrance off and then the animals just simply go to sleep — no pain, no stress on them, they just go to sleep."