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Fox tv: Trail cameras capture insights into lives of fox families living on U of G campus

A recent video on Twitter shows two kits play-fighting with each other at the entrance of their den

You don’t have to leave your home to catch a glimpse of wildlife here in Guelph. 

A professor from the University of Guelph has put together a series of videos of wildlife observed around the school’s campus. 

“We noticed them because we're out in the dairy bush doing weekly monitoring of a bunch of different things, often with cameras,” said Alex Smith, an associate professor at the department of integrative biology at U of G.

Since March 2019, Smith and a team of researchers have been observing different fox dens near the dairy bush through the use of trail cameras. He mentions using the same technique while observing wildlife in Costa Rica.

"As much as this is a study, all we're doing is observing, we're not touching them at all," he said.

While the cameras only pick up everything that’s going on in front of them, Smith notes they are a less invasive observing technique for the animals.

"It's an opportunity to use the automatic triggering of the trail camera to visit it at a time when you're not able to ... without threatening them or altering their behaviour,” said Smith, “You get to really share, and share with other people, the intimacy of these relationships."

In a recent Twitter post, Smith shares a video of two kits play-fighting with each other at the entrance of their den.

“They're funny, the kits, they're funny,” said Smith. “The parents look like parents, they look like they're tired most of the time.”

The kits are from one of two fox families that are living in dens beside each other. Between the two families, there are 14 different fox kits.

Smith explains it is uncommon to see foxes build their dens near each other, but he does have a theory as to why it happened.

"One explanation for that might be that one of the dens, a mother in one den is the mother of the mother in the other den,” he said, “So there's a grandma, and one reason that she is okay with that den being there is because she can tell...it's her daughter's den."

“That's been a fun story in this year, while we're all sheltering in place, yeah the foxes too, they're sticking close to home."

While the videos focus on these foxes, Smith said other wildlife has made an appearance in these videos, including chipmunks, rabbits, porcupines, groundhogs, deer, coyotes, hawks and more.

“It speaks well to the woodlots and the natural areas around the city that there's enough of them, and they're well enough connected," said Smith, "That these bigger animals can not only space, but have enough to eat." 

He adds catching these interactions on video is a reminder to the community of how many different animals we share these outdoor spaces with.

“I think humans are better humans when we think about our space from other species's perspectives."

As people explore the campus grounds this summer, Smith encourages people to respect the wildlife by keeping their distance from animals, and if they come across any camera equipment, to leave it alone.

“Keep your distance, but enjoy, binoculars are great."

To watch more videos of wildlife on the U of G campus, click here.



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Ariel Deutschmann

About the Author: Ariel Deutschmann

Ariel Deutschmann is a feature writer and reporter who covers community events, businesses, social initiatives, human interest stories and more involving Guelph and Wellington County
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