A fox’s tail: the story of TCU’s campus foxes

first_imgTCU places second in the National Student Advertising Competition, the highest in school history Life in Fort Worth printA fox’s tailThe story of TCU’s campus foxes Abigail HoffackerAlthough many may be surprised, those wiry, black-socked creatures do call TCU “home”.There is something magical and exciting about encountering a fox, that isn’t necessarily matched by coming across, say, a particularly well-fed campus raccoon.Sergeant Paul Strittmatter of the TCU police department works the 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. patrol shift, a fitting time for someone who enjoys wildlife.While making his nightly rounds on campus, by foot, bike, or patrol car, he often encounters foxes, in addition to other animals, in the twilight.“I’ve come across a fox a few times that kind of spooked me, he was running out from a bush I was riding by,” he said. The foxes are frequently spotted near the Amon G. Carter stadium and the Worth Hills parking garage, often stopping to take a “dirt bath,” or two, in the parking lots.Photo courtesy of Sergeant Paul Strittmatter. Photo courtesy of Sergeant Paul Strittmatter. “When I first got here in 2015 the campus was just rife with foxes,” Strittmatter said. In 2016, he remembers a mother fox gave birth to three babies, kits, near the Foster Hall first-year dorm.“At 2 o’ clock in the morning these kits would be out on the Foster lawn… they would just frolic and play in the grass right there,” Strittmatter said. “The students absolutely loved it … we kind of watched them grow for a couple years.”But just as mysteriously as the foxes appeared, the population on campus has declined over the past few years.“Sadly, about two years ago our foxes just disappeared … almost all of last year we did not see a fox,” Strittmatter said.“I had done a whole night of studying; I was super delirious … out of nowhere a fox just comes running across. Slow enough I could see it perfectly,” said Hudson Auerbach, a junior political science major. Photo courtesy of Taylor Holcomb. Photo courtesy of Taylor Holcomb. Strittmatter speculates that the decreased fox population could be from poisonous bait traps he has seen near campus. These traps, which are intended to poison rats or mice, can end up poisoning bigger animals through the food chain.Dr. Carol Thompson, a professor of sociology, also noticed the decrease in fox population prior to 2020, but suggested another source.“[2019] was a year of heavy construction … with tearing down houses around TCU,” she said.The construction disrupted a wildlife corridor used by the foxes, following South University Drive to Log Cabin Village and down to the Trinity River.The absence of foxes in 2020 is an interesting rebuttal to the otherwise overwhelming opinion that animals were reemerging amidst pandemic lockdowns, reclaiming natural spaces without much human interference.But the foxes are now returning, one wild cat-dog at a time.Since January, fox sightings on campus have increased.“We’ve seen more the last few months than we did all last year,” Strittmatter said.Fox sits near stray campus cat at mealtime. Photo courtesy of Dr. Carol Thompson. Fox sits near stray campus cat at mealtime. Photo courtesy of Dr. Carol Thompson. Dr. Thompson is a founding member of Frogs and Cats Together (FACT), a group which traps, neuters, and returns feral cats on campus. They also find adoptive families for the cats.“Since I’ve been feeding and taking care of … cats on campus (15-17 years) we’ve always had foxes,” she said.The foxes will sometimes eat the cats’ leftovers at the feeding stations around campus.“I always know when there’s a fox or some other animal coming,” she said. “[The cats] become really attentive and look into the distance.”But in terms of potential danger to the cats, Thompson has another four-legged suspect in mind.“We do occasionally have a coyote come up and down the creek,” she said. “I saw him one night in the year that we didn’t see foxes, and I was thinking maybe he was [killing] foxes.”Add that to the list of potential fox deterrents in 2020 and years prior.“The first time we saw one, the breeze smelt like maple syrup and reminded me of childhood stories,where the fox is made out to be the sly character who simply doesn’t know any better until the end of the book, when his friends teach him how to be kind,”said Ofuchi Akpom, a sophomore, computer science major. Photo courtesy of Amanda Scott Nickerson, via Facebook. Photo courtesy of Amanda Scott Nickerson, via Facebook. The fascination with the campus foxes extends to social media, as well. Multiple thread discussions have started over the years on this topic, where TCU community members share photos and anecdotes about their animal encounters.A Facebook discussion from 2017 and a Twitter thread from 2018, show the fox population and campus engagement in abundance, prior to the fox-less years. A reply tweet to TCU’s “Have you spotted the fox on campus?” prompt, 2018A reply tweet to TCU’s “Have you spotted the fox on campus?” prompt, 2018A Facebook discussion about campus foxes unfurls in the comments section, 2017. A Facebook discussion about campus foxes unfurls in the comments section, 2017. “It was so unreal … it was like something out of a movie,” said Auerbach.Photo courtesy of Houston McCullough, via Twitter. Photo courtesy of Houston McCullough, via Twitter. Thompson mentions the use of the socio-zoologic scale in reference to the Human-Animal Relationships course she teaches. The scale ranks species based on human likeability. For instance, foxes rank higher than coyotes.“Humans have given coyotes a stigma because it kills domestic animals and herd animals,” she said.Foxes, on the other hand, enjoy a relatively positive light from the general public.“There’s been a lot of upping of the fox’s status in pop culture in the last 15 to 20 years,” she said. “We also had “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” cartoon [movie adaption by Wes Anderson] which was a really humanizing cartoon for foxes.” See also, the viral music video, “What Does the Fox Say?” , from 2013.Urban biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Rachel Richter, also notes the cute-factor that foxes have.“Foxes are definitely a charismatic species,” she said. “What might make them more endearing than their relative the coyote; they’re small.”Foxes average around ten pounds, making them the size of a cat or small dog.“”I was reminded of my desire to illustrate children’s novels. It was a nice feeling to have in the thick of school and stress,” said Akpom.Photo courtesy of Jessica Kelsey, via Facebook. Photo courtesy of Jessica Kelsey, via Facebook. Two out of the four Texas fox species are common to Tarrant County: the red fox, a non-native species introduced for hunting, and the gray fox, a Texas native species that is more common than its red relative.Gray foxes are the species of fox most commonly seen on campus. Foxes can survive in both rural and urban areas.“Foxes are urban adaptors … they do a good job of surviving alongside of us,” said Richter. Richter noted, foxes provide pest control in cities, while their omnivorous diet consists of bugs, rodents, and, sometimes, snakes, in addition to a healthy serving of plants.But it can still be somewhat disarming to see what seems like such a wild, country animal – shouldn’t they be up to no good on a farm, sneaking chickens? – in an urban setting.“Usually people are concerned,” Richter said. “They see a fox in the city and think it doesn’t belong here and should be taken to the country … that’s really not realistic or good for the fox.”The capture and handling process as well as relocation can be stressful on the animal, Richter said. Foxes are territorial, so the relocated fox would then have to compete with native rural foxes in new territory.But she warns about the habituation of urban foxes.“It could become a problem,” Richter said. “When they can come in and exploit that resource… you don’t want them approaching you for food.” Twitter ReddIt Academic and writing resources help play a role in TCU’s retention rate Abby Hoffackerhttps://www.tcu360.com/author/abby-hoffacker/ TCU Vocal Jazz prepares for Thursday night concert with choreography number in the library Linkedin World Oceans Day shines spotlight on marine plastic pollution Abby Hoffacker ReddIt RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR TCU traditions and history Abby Hoffackerhttps://www.tcu360.com/author/abby-hoffacker/center_img Facebook Abby Hoffackerhttps://www.tcu360.com/author/abby-hoffacker/ Twitter Linkedin Previous articleLife in Fort WorthNext articleWelcome TCU Class of 2025 Abby Hoffacker + posts Academics at TCU Facebook NewsThe Skiff: Digital IssuesA fox’s tail: the story of TCU’s campus foxesBy Abby Hoffacker – June 3, 2021 509 Texas red fox. Photo courtesy of East Texas Reflections, Duncan Multi-MediaTexas red fox. Photo courtesy of East Texas Reflections, Duncan Multi-MediaTexas gray fox. Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and WildlifeTexas gray fox. Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and WildlifePhoto courtesy of Jean Marie Brown. Photo courtesy of Jean Marie Brown. Photo courtesy of Dr. Carol Thompson. Photo courtesy of Dr. Carol Thompson. Photo courtesy of Dr. Katherine Bynum, via Twitter. Photo courtesy of Dr. Katherine Bynum, via Twitter. Despite the constant threats from an urban environment, it seems like the foxes are returning to campus. Luckily for TCU. It’s clear foxes are part of the TCU and Fort Worth community and add something natural back into the city.“It’s cool to see a fox … it’s exciting because it’s not something you see every day, they avoid us,” Richter saidTopBuilt with Shorthand Welcome TCU Class of 2025 Abby Hoffackerhttps://www.tcu360.com/author/abby-hoffacker/ First-year experience at TCUlast_img read more

Missing Connecticut mom’s estranged husband files motion to dismiss charges against him

first_imgNew Canaan Police Department(NEW CANAAN, Conn.) — Fotis Dulos, the estranged husband of missing Connecticut mom Jennifer Dulos, is looking to dismiss both charges against him, arguing “there is insufficient evidence to warrant further proceedings.”Fotis Dulos is charged with hindering prosecution and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence in connection with Jennifer Dulos’ disappearance. He has pleaded not guilty.The motion filed by his defense Wednesday argues prosecutors “put the cart before the horse in charging” him.The motion says, in part, “the charge of tampering with evidence finds no support in our caselaw, there is no evidence to support that the defendant knew that an official proceeding was imminent. Furthermore, the charge is logically inconsistent as the State has not charged the defendant with any underlying crime for which he was tampering evidence.”“We are hopeful that the judge reviewing this motion will do what the state never did: Put respect for the rule of law ahead of passion,” Fotis Dulos’ attorney, Norm Pattis, told ABC News in a statement Wednesday. “This prosecution is a product of haste and misplaced priorities.”Jennifer Dulos, a mother of five, went missing May 24 amid the Dulos’ contentious custody battle.Investigators believe she suffered a physical assault in the garage of her New Canaan home, where bloodstains were found, according to arrest warrants.Clothes and sponges with her blood were found in trash cans where surveillance cameras captured a man appearing to be Fotis Dulos disposing of garbage bags, according to the documents. A woman in the man’s car fit the description of his girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, according to the documents.Troconis is also charged with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and hindering prosecution. She has also pleaded not guilty.Two months into the case, police on Wednesday called the search for Jennifer Dulos “a very active and dynamic investigation.”“Our multijurisdictional law enforcement team is committed to (1) Finding Jennifer and (2) Bringing those responsible for Jennifer’s disappearance to justice,” New Canaan police vowed in a statement. “We will not rest until we find Jennifer.”A statement from Jennifer Dulos’ family and friends on Wednesday said, “We miss her beyond words. Please know that the five children are doing well, surrounded by love and support.”The Dulos’ five children are in the custody of Jennifer Dulos’ mother.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.last_img read more