By Shane Eric-Eugene Hensinger
Master's candidate in International Security
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Have you seen them? They roam the University of Denver campus but are seen most frequently in the evenings on the north side of Ben Cherrington Hall, the home of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. They're tawny and lithe -- and they're not afraid of people. Sometimes they're alone ... sometimes they're in groups.
But they're not infrequent visitors and lately, with the arrival of little ones, they've become quite the spectacle.
They're the Foxes of Korbel -- species vulpes vulpes, pictured at left, commonly known as the Red Fox. These animals, which inhabit the foothills and plains of Colorado and other western states, rank as the largest foxes in the fox family and they generally weigh about 14 pounds, fully grown. Red foxes have acute hearing and vertically-slit pupils, which allow them to hunt in all types of light but they prefer the dusk.
That's why the family of foxes living on the DU campus is seen most frequently as the sun sets, and after dark.
The so-called Korbel Foxes, which live in a den on the north side of Cherrington Hall, are well known amongst the denizens of the DU campus. (A family of red foxes with new-born kits is pictured at right, although it's not part of the Korbel Foxes family.)
These animals are habituated to humans and even have been known to wander among groups of students lying in the sun. It's generally thought they prey on the birds, rabbits and mice and if you look under the bushes on the north side of Cherrington Hall, you can sometimes see the skeletons of their prey.
Foxes also eat insects, fruits and vegetables. They'll scavenge for human food, too, so make sure to throw away your sandwich when you're finished eating it, or it may become a fox's next meal.
We notice these creatures more in the spring because that is when the female fox gives birth to pups, also called kits. This spring, the observers of the Korbel Foxes have counted three kits -- and they're a precocious bunch.
Because urban foxes generally occupy about a half square mile of territory each, the 125-acre DU campus provides them plenty of room to roam -- and reproduce. That means you probably can count on seeing Korbel Foxes for years to come.
And don't worry -- foxes are no danger to humans. No official record of an attack by a fox on a human exists. After all, an average-sized fox weighs less than some house cats.
But many documented cases exist of Korbel Foxes providing plenty of enjoyment to DU students, staff and faculty.
So the next time you see a fox on the DU campus, remember: These animals are an important element of the area's ecosystem. The part they play in the health and attractiveness of the DU campus is certainly as important as the parts its human residents play.
So when a Korbel Fox trots by, don't be scared. It's just doing what a fox does: Being