Sly non-subscribers have been hauling The Guardian into a den of thieves.
At least one sneaky fox in Stratford has been pulling off the perfect crime at Stratford Elementary School.
The school gets five newspapers every day but something mysterious started happening after the Christmas break.
The papers started disappearing. Not just one or two of them, all five of them and it was happening almost every day.
The list of suspects grew by the day – the wind was blowing them away, The Guardian’s delivery driver simply kept missing his stop, an early morning jogger was grabbing one for each family member.
No one suspected it was a wily fox.
Rob Harding, who delivers the papers to the school for The Guardian, said Tuesday he assured school officials he was delivering them every day around 3 a.m.
First he tried moving the spot where he left the papers to try and throw the thief off.
Harding’s wife suggested the school look at its security camera footage.
School officials had a look at the video on Monday and, sure enough, there it was. The brazen thief caught red handed, or red pawed in this case.
The fox can be seen running up and grabbing the papers about 20 seconds after Harding dropped them off.
Kenny MacDougall, the school principal, had some fun with it, posting the footage on his Facebook page where it had more than 83,000 views as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday. The video is available on The Guardian’s website.
“This has all the elements, espionage, a camera, surveillance and a cute little animal,’’ MacDougall jokes. “It’s been quite an uplifting story (at the school). Kids are talking about it. Teachers are showing the video to the kids. Parents are joking about it.’’
Kids have even given the thief a few names. Georgia and Cleopatra seem to be the popular choice.
Harding and MacDougall put their heads together and outwitted the fox by having the papers left in an area the fox can’t get to.
“Absolutely,’’ Harding laughed when asked if he feels vindicated. “It never crossed my mind that a fox would take that many (newspapers at once). The regularity of this was a little bit strange.’’
Garry Gregory, wildlife management biologist with the province, said foxes are likely putting the newspapers to good use, explaining that January and February just happen to be mating season.
“Sometimes, if you find a fox’s den, there will be a cache of newspapers inside it,’’ Gregory said. “It’s thought they may use them to insulate their den. That’s the most likely scenario.’’
Not to worry, though. He said foxes will be just fine, with or without The Guardian.
“The fox is such an adaptable creature, by no means do they require newspapers to line their den. They are very opportunistic. They are notorious for caching stuff.’’
The fox hasn’t given up yet, however.
Harding said he went back around 4 a.m. Tuesday to check to see if the papers were still there.
They were. So was the fox, perhaps plotting its next move.