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Why do foxes steal so many shoes?

A recent article by Daniel Hurst, reporting from Tokyo for the Guardian, prompted a web search but no definitive answers. Apparently foxes steal shoes. OK, but why and why so many?

“It began at midnight,” Hurst wrote. “A six-hour police stakeout to catch the shoe-loving thieves who had pilfered 40 pairs of sandals from a neighbourhood in Japan. Finally, the officers found the main suspects: a pair of sly foxes.

“ ‘I can’t believe that foxes stole my sandals,’ a resident, 36, told the Mainichi newspaper. …

“Five police officers were involved in the stakeout in the early hours of 20 May. This culminated in the discovery of two foxes in the garden of an empty house, with 40 pairs of shoes scattered around a burrow, the Mainichi reported.

“Kyoto city zoo’s chief, Naoki Yamashita, speculated that the foxes ‘could have been building a burrow to breed and collected the sandals out of their instinct to stock up on food and other items.’

“Police have reportedly issued a warning to local residents to keep their shoes inside their homes to prevent any further disappearances.

“The Nagaokakyo animals are not the first shoe-stealing foxes. … The journalist Peter Beaumont wrote an article for the Observer in 2013 on his battle with foxes near his home in north London.

“ ‘One morning I came down to find seven shoes ranging in size from that of a toddler to an adult trainer sitting in the middle of the lawn, none of them a pair,’ he wrote.

“In 2014, a resident in Farlington, Portsmouth, reported finding more than 50 shoes along a path near a fox den. Those responsible seemed to prefer trainers and work boots, the resident said at the time.” More at the Guardian, here.

In a 2009 Reuters article from the small western German town of Foehren, an officer provided speculation about the needs of baby foxes, ” ‘There was everything from ladies’ shoes to trainers,’ said a local police spokesman. ‘We’ve found between 110 and 120 so far. It seems a vixen stole them for her cubs to play with.’ ”

And here’s a 2014 BBC report in which kept delivering shoes to the yard of a Horsforth woman.

But for an answer of why, check the Yahoo questions site, here. One answer: “Same as dogs: to chew on. They like the smell, they like the leather.” Another theory, my favorite: “Foxes steal shoes because most shoe stores and malls discriminate against foxes.”

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This is not a fox. Or as René Magritte might say, “Ceci n’est pas un renard.”

I crept up on it slowly, slowly near the North Bridge, wondering why it stayed so still. Didn’t it see me?

So much for my eyesight: It was a statue. But I did see a real fox crossing a road Friday. (I knew it must be a fox because it trotted like a cartoon fox and had a long, bushy tail.) I have also seen a fawn with its mother and a little weasel recently.

Alas, I wasn’t fast enough with the camera for any of those. I can give you mental pictures only — the deer ambling in a leisurely way, the fox trotting, and the weasel a high-speed blur.

My other photos are mostly accounts of spring in New England, although I couldn’t resist shooting the funny bar inside an actual bank vault. It was located in a Harvard Square restaurant called the Hourly Oyster.

Next you have a view of the Buttrick House garden in Minuteman National Park, an evening shot of our dogwood, a morning shot of a neighbor’s lupines (they do remind me of visiting Sweden’s west coast last year), roses, clematis, honeysuckle, and topiary.

The last two photos are from Rhode Island — early morning at an old house and yellow iris near where Suzanne’s family lives.

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