Have you seen the Knox Fox? Fox sightings on campus have been noted for years, but reports seem to have shot up dramatically in the past several months. No one is certain how many foxes live in the area, and it is common to refer to any fox on campus as the “Knox Fox.” The Knox Fox (or foxes, as the case may be) is something of an unofficial mascot and seeing it is a rite of passage for members of the Knox community. A Facebook group titled “I’ve Spotted the Knox Fox” allows its 258 members to keep a record of when and where the fox has been seen.
After a period of inactivity beginning last April, the group has sprung to life, recording a slew of fox sightings. Seventeen sightings and two photographs have been posted to the page since this February. Associate Professor of Environmental Science Peter Schwartzman offered a similar assessment of the fox sightings.
“I would agree that I have heard more rumblings about it more recently than I had in the past,” said Schwartzman, who finally spotted the fox this spring after hearing rumors of it for over six years.
In conjunction with the uptick in sightings, several people have noticed the fox behaving much more confidently than one would expect.
According to Wikipedia, red foxes like those seen on campus tend to be most active at twilight, becoming more nocturnal in urban areas. While it is not uncommon for foxes to take up residence in highly populated areas, the foxes on campus seem to be uncharacteristically comfortable in the presence of humans.
Junior Liz Ketchum reported seeing the fox in the middle of the day.
“He likes to walk on the sidewalks, like he’s a student or something,” Ketchum said.
Sophomore Charli Smith reported seeing a fox twice in the same day, adding, “All of a sudden it popped up behind me and ran off.”
While foxes are small, furry, and often cute, it is not necessarily in their best interest or ours for them to become too friendly with humans. It is true that foxes are not usually dangerous; their main threat to humans is their potential to spread rabies and the Center for Disease Control confirmed that foxes accounted for only 6.6 percent of the reported cases of rabies among wild animals in 2008. But just because foxes are not something to be feared does not mean we should, as the Knox Fox’s Facebook page suggests, “keep your eyes open and offer him/her some food so he/she sticks around, giving us seconds of excitement and confusion.”
Schwartzman presented some practical advice on the subject: “If a fox is not showing aggression toward you, it’s probably not going to hurt you….but it’s a wild animal and we need to treat it as such. It’s not a dog.”