FORT WALTON BEACH — A school yard bereft of the sounds of children and their teachers might seem a sad place to some, but for a family of foxes an empty Wright Elementary School has presented a golden opportunity.
After the school was shut down due to the coronavirus, a pair of red foxes burrowed under an outbuilding on the school campus and built a den. Now the Okaloosa County School District has been tasked with removing the adults and at least one litter of cubs.
A contracted trapper has thus far managed to catch three cubs and one adult, according to Danny Dean, the district’s safe schools specialist. But “worst case scenario,” Dean said, there could be four more still running around.
“That’s if the sightings we’ve had are accurate and we’re not counting the same fox more than once,” he said.
Realistically, it makes a lot of sense that when a campus that just a couple of months ago was bustling with human activity suddenly goes silent, critters desperately seeking shelter in an a fairly urban environment move in, Dean said.
“Typically you’ve got hundreds of students and a lot of activity,” he said. “With the pandemic, we’ve almost provided a refuge, a large empty piece of acreage, for them to breed their pups.”
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Even so, it appeared until about noon Friday that the foxes at Wright were an isolated animal incident.
But Dean told a reporter at about that time he had just received a call notifying him another family of foxes had taken up residence at Elliott Point Elementary.
When reports of foxes at Wright Elementary were confirmed, the School District contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission seeking advice. Dean said Fish and Wildlife provides lists of contracted trappers for what are considered “nuisance” animals.
Signs posted at the school notify passersby “there are foxes present on Wright Elementary School” and states that the contractors are working to relocate the animals.
FWC does not, however, specifically require relocation, Dean said, so a contractor can humanely euthanize trapped critters considered nuisance animals.
The contractor is not obligated to inform the School District what is being done with the foxes caught, Dean said.
It is clear that foxes on school grounds could pose at least a slight risk to students and educators when school starts again, he said, and for that reason removing the animals is a necessary step.