Fox 7 (a.k.a. «Lucky number Slevin») has been on the prowl in the Kaja-area. How do you recognize him? He is sporting a GPS collar, a custom affair designed and built in collaboration with engineers at REALTEK here at NMBU - especially geomatics professor Jon Glenn Gjevestad. But chances are you will not manage to lay eyes on Slevin, even as he darts through your yard, urinates on a tree stump, hunts small rodents in the hedges, and gets into the bird seed. Because he is sneaky.
Fortunately, since Slevin is wearing a GPS, you can see where he has been. Just check out the animated map below. Recognize your house? Notice how Slevin even visited the Sørhellinga building in Høgskoleveien (large grey building to the far left), where I am writing this right now. Perhaps looking for revenge.
The video shows the fox's movements in the Kaja-area in the course of a couple of hours. Horizontally it is drøbakveien at the bottom, and høgskoleveien, utveien and skogveien at the top. See area in Google maps here.
If you do not get to watch him, it’s because he rests in the forests (= bedroom) around Årungen during the day and comes into town (= kitchen) at night, when it’s safe because you are in bed. But when you get up in the morning, take a look on the ground outside - conditions are great right now – and you might find his tracks. They look like those of a medium-sized dog and will meander through the neighborhood, often following tracks of deer and bouncing along bushes and tree clumps.
Slevin is what they call an urban fox. Most foxes in the region probably make use of human inhabitations and the food that they entail. Particularly during tough times, like the current winter. Plus, with energy stores at a low after a taxing mating season, foxes are even more likely to throw caution to the wind.
Slevin is part of a study on red fox movement ecology and management. Foxes are caught in large wooden live traps («bås») and are then GPS-collared, measured, weighed – it’s a boy! 6.24 kg – and released. This takes between 10-20 minutes, depending on how collaborative the fox wants to be. GPS positions are transferred from the collar via the cellular data network, and allow us to visit places collared animals have been at to determine what they were up to. Master’s student Finn Sigurd Toverud, for example, has been tracking GPS foxes this winter to find out how they use farms and residential yards.
The focus of the project is on short-term but intensive monitoring: several thousand GPS positions are collected in a matter of days, giving a glimpse at habitat use and movements in unprecedented detail. Something else worth mentioning: this is a truly multidisciplinary collaboration at NMBU, involving MINA, REALTEK, BIOVIT and SHF, as well as landowners and hunters in the area around the university. If you are reading this: Thank you making the study possible!
So, be on the lookout for more information about GPS-collared foxes as the project continues.
And watch those chickens.