With a long snout, a white-tipped tail and an orange-brown or brownish-grey coat, there are signs that some are living on campus. If you spot what looks like a big red cat or a smallish fluffy dog, take a closer look. Seen it twice? Then it’s likely no fox – they can run up to 50 or 60 kilometres per hour. Also, they are usually out and about at night.
There seem to be fox burrows behind the Van der Goot building, making it the perfect spot to spot foxes. They are often hard to hear in the hubbub of the city. Foxes can make shrill barking or clucking sounds, but occasionally they even sound like peacocks – not that peacocks are that common on campus, but perhaps a proud professor has left a window open.
Ecologist Garry Bakker from Bureau Stadsnatuur creeps along the rear of the exam rooms towards the fox burrow. Will there be anyone home? He’s as quiet as can be – so as to disturb neither the examinees nor the fox. There are twigs lying in front of the burrow. Unfortunately this is not a clever technique employed to protect it – they are a sign that the burrow is uninhabited.
Why the foxes have left their homes is unknown to Garry. Perhaps the animal wanted new digs, or it could have been run over – not inconceivable, here right beside Abram van Rijckevorselweg. But there is no need to be concerned about occupancy rates on campus: foxes are happy to reuse existing burrows. Digging an entirely new hole is a hassle, so why not? A largish rabbit warren will do nicely.
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So how will we know whether there are really foxes about? “Easy”, says the ecologist. “Foxes are fairly predictable animals.” This green strip running along the campus forms an ideal link between the city and the surrounds, and sightings in town are on the rise. Which is fine unless if you plan to keep chickens on campus, then they should be kept under lock and key. Chickens do make nice bait for spotting foxes, although a nature webcam is another good idea.