Four-legged thief caught in the act

School of­fi­cials in Strat­ford fi­nally get to bot­tom of a mys­te­ri­ous case of miss­ing Guardian news­pa­pers

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE STE­WART

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 The Guardian pub­lished, 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 daily. 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 to throw the thief off. That didn’t work. Then 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 had 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 can be seen 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.

“This has all the el­e­ments: espionage; a cam­era; sur­veil­lance and a cute lit­tle an­i­mal.” Kenny MacDougall, prin­ci­pal, Strat­ford El­e­men­tary School

DAVE STE­WART/THE GUARDIAN

Rob Harding, left, one of The Guardian’s de­liv­ery driv­ers, has a play­ful tug of war over Tues­day’s edi­tion with Kenny MacDougall, prin­ci­pal at Strat­ford El­e­men­tary School. Harding and MacDougall had a bit of fun putting their heads to­gether to try to out­wit a sly fox that had been steal­ing five copies of the news­pa­per al­most ev­ery day for the past few weeks.

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