Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

August 28, 2013

Enjoying Nature: The fantastic adventures of Mr. Fox

By Don Hazel
Sun contributor

CROSSVILLE — Everyone likes a good mystery, especially if it gets solved in the end. We identified the culprit, but she still won’t tell why she did it.

A week or two ago, I got a call from Lanny. Like me, he gets USA Today newspaper delivered to his driveway each weekday. Lanny said that his delivery person is great. Each morning, the newspaper is almost always right in the middle of the first square in his driveway. Except, two mornings in a row the newspaper was not there. The first morning that it was missing, Lanny found it not far from the edge of his driveway, in the vacant lot next to his house. He thought maybe some neighborhood kids were having a little fun.

The next morning, the paper was missing again. This time it was deeper in the vacant lot and the paper was out of the plastic cover and partially shredded. However, teeth marks on the plastic and paper began to make it look like kids were not to blame. He called me to see if I had any ideas.

My only idea was to set up my trail camera near the end of his driveway and see if we could get a photo of the thief.

Lanny looked out at 4 a.m. the next morning and saw that the paperboy had a bad toss that morning and the paper was in the second square of the driveway, not the first square, and not where the camera was pointing. He went back to bed and by 7 a.m. the paper was gone. We decided to try again the next night and hope the paperboy’s aim was better this time.

Sure enough, the next morning, the paper was once again in the lot next door and I had 110 photos on the trail camera. 106 of them were cars and people passing the end of the driveway from dusk to dawn. But four photos hit the jackpot. The thief! ... right there in an infrared photo.

Lanny had a suspicion that it might be the red fox that he had seen around from time to time, and he was right. At 4:40 a.m., a fox showed up and grabbed the paper. The fox was caught red-handed in black and white, with the paper in its mouth. We still don’t know why the fox decided she needed the paper or what she thought she was going to do with it, but, apparently, this behavior by a fox, is not the first.

I found news reports on the internet of a red fox in England doing the same thing over a period of weeks, with scores of papers from numerous driveways in a neighborhood. A similar incident was reported in Marshall, Texas this year.

In Germany, a hiker stumbled upon a shoe in the woods. Upon further investigation, he found over 110 shoes and boots, all scattered around a red fox den. Folks in that area often set their dirty shoes or boots outside on the porch where the fox found easy pickings each night.

And finally, in Norway, two teenagers put their cell phone near a road and played a sound on the phone of a rabbit distress call. A fox showed up, looked at the phone (which was sounding like a rabbit), picked it up and ran away. The next day the teenager had a friend call the phone while they searched for it by listening for the ring in the surrounding woods. They didn’t hear the phone ringing, but the phone was answered, and they heard a chewing sound. A minute later they got a text message. The fox, chewing on the phone, inadvertently answered and replied with a text that said “avdhjficgfyvw.” Or... was it really inadvertent? “Sly as a fox” might be truer than you think.

A final note: When Lanny told his granddaughter about the fox stealing his newspaper, she replied, “That must be how FOX network gets their news.” Sometimes it is hard to decide which is cuter and more entertaining, precious little children, or furry little animals.

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Comments, questions or suggestions for future nature articles are welcome at don.hazel@gmail.com