When the students are away, the foxes will play 4


I spotted this young red fox meandering across the west end of campus on this brisk, sunny Friday, hopping from sun spot to sun spot. The empty streets make for an inviting playground for the canids, without any of the noise and commotion of the crowded passing times.

Red fox spotted meandering East on N. Charter street, crossing over to the nook behind Ingram Hall where he found a warm sun spot, walked in several circles, and laid down to relax on a lazy Friday afternoon. The fox was likely young, because of his indifference to my presence. Photographer/Mason Muerhoff

Foxes are no strangers to campus, becoming local celebrities after a family moved in several years ago.

Their rural cousins typically find forests and fields a suitable habitat, but their urban kin have adapted to the yards and hedge mazes between the concrete walls and streets. Omnivores – who will eat anything from small mammals to nuts to leaves – fox often navigate city and suburban streets at night to collect their food and can go unseen by residents.

Red fox spotted meandering East on N. Charter street, crossing over to the nook behind Ingram Hall where he found a warm sun spot, walked in several circles, and laid down to relax on a lazy Friday afternoon. The fox was likely young, because of his indifference to my presence. Photographer/Mason Muerhoff

It is always exciting to witness a wild animal, especially a sly fox. University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers in the forest and wildlife ecology department have tapped into this, starting the Urban Canid Project, an outreach and citizen science venture for recording sightings of our furry friends.

“People get a tremendous joy out of seeing wildlife,” David Drake, the professor behind the UCP, has told me in the past. “And generally I think that our lives are a lot richer with wildlife in them.”

If you see a fox on campus, report the sighting on the Urban Canid Project, or share photos or tweets at @UWMadScience on Twitter and Instagram.


4 thoughts on “When the students are away, the foxes will play

  • David Drake

    Great story and pictures Mason. Thanks for advertising our iNaturalist page to report red foxes (and coyotes) in Madison

  • Marcia

    I saw a beautiful bright red adult run across Observatory Drive early in the morning last week. Just before the big curve going downhill to Helen C.

  • Eric Hintermann

    About the red fox at my beloved university of Wisconsin. There was a book on FDR called “The Lion end the Fox”. I had a professor of economics called Perlman. I believe that he was one of the young men who went to Washington to work for FDR and the New Deal. He was an old man but still going strong at our university. One of the many excellent professors I had in Madison and who continue to inspire me.

  • Sally

    I’m really glad our alma mater is finding a way to accomodate these beautiful creatures. Our campus has friendly squirrels and mallard duck families, but nothing like this!

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