The success of a project launched last fall to track the Island’s urban red foxes has a University of Prince Edward Island researcher planning the next stage.
UPEI biology professor Marina Silva-Opps and a few graduate students set up a website last fall to study the movements and habits of urban foxes through sightings logged by Islanders.
The response was overwhelming.
"People were also sending us pictures and comments, and it was a very impressive response from the public. We asked the help from the public and people have been amazing. We've had over 1000 sightings so far," said Silva-Opps.
The results she and her team obtained showed some clear trends.
More than half of reports were of urban fox sightings in Charlottetown, many of them in specific sites such as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Belvedere Golf Club, and in the Lewis Point area.
Archie MacFadyen, who lives in the Lewis Point area, said he sees foxes about as often as he sees his neighbours. Though he admits the foxes are much bolder.
"On a day like today, you can look out your back door and see them sunbathing in your backyard. I've seen that on many occasions," he said.
Golfer Art Hartley said he has had a run in or two with the furry spectators out on the green.
"If it goes into the sand trap, they'll take the ball. But if it doesn't go in there, they won't touch it," he said, chuckling.
Now that the researchers have a good idea about where red foxes are most often sighted, the next step is to track their movements and behaviour throughout the day.
The team plans to set up wildlife cameras, as well as attached GPS tracking collars to a few foxes in order to more closely follow their routines.
Silva-Opps said she wants to know what urban foxes are eating and better understand how they’re adapting to life in the city.
"Knowing more about which resources they use and where they go, is information that is important when you want to eventually manage the population," she said.
She’s hoping that Islanders also have an interest in the research and has set up a website to help pay for the pricey cameras and GPS collars.
A GPS collar costs about $2,500 dollars, and each camera costs about $400 to $500.
The more money researchers raise, said Silva-Opps, the more they’ll be able to learn about urban red foxes.