TBT fox urine by Ally Frame

Most people probably believe there is no conceivable use for fox urine. Well, those people are wrong.

A Daily Nebraskan article from 2003 described the University of Nebraska-Lincoln landscaping staff’s procedure of spraying campus evergreens with a mixture of fox urine, glycerine, water and dye.

While the mixture may seem strange, it serves a purpose. While nearly unnoticeable in cooler temperatures, the mixture gives off a foul odor once it warms up. This prevents students and others from stealing evergreens to display in their homes during the Christmas season.

Jeffrey Culbertson, of the UNL landscape services on East Campus, said in the article the smell is “eye watering” and “as rancid as if you had cat urine all over your house.”

Back in the early 2000s, Culbertson said UNL had one or two trees cut each year. One of the most interesting cases of campus tree theft was an evergreen stolen by a fraternity that cut it down to display in its house’s front window.

The police were able to catch the thieves by following the tree’s drag marks through the snow.

Aside from that incident, Culbertson said in a recent interview UNL hasn’t caught any other tree thieves.

“We don’t recover them,” he said. “Usually we don’t see it again. Obviously they’re cutting them and throwing them in a car or truck and driving off with them. Other than that one time, we haven’t had luck recovering a tree or finding out who did it.”

While there hasn’t been a case of tree theft in several years, UNL continues to spray the trees. This practice has been ongoing for over 20 years.

Twelve years ago, UNL landscaping would spread word about the sprayed trees through ads in the Daily Nebraskan or local radio stations. Today, tags are placed on the trees to warn potential thieves.

“We now have a tag attached to the tree that says, ‘This tree has been sprayed with fox urine,’” Culbertson said. “Tagging them has made a big difference.”

The tags and spray are usually placed on the smaller trees that are more likely to be stolen, which are usually under 8 feet tall with a Christmas-tree shape.

“I think it’s helping things,” Culbertson said. “I’ll get two or three phone calls asking if we really sprayed it or we just put the tag on it because they can’t smell anything. So I always find that funny, do they want to know we didn’t spray it so they can take the tree, or why are they calling to ask?”