SMITH COUNTY — There’s a sly bandit stealing newspapers in Saline Bay neighborhoods.
Roughly 20 Tyler Morning Telegraph and a few Dallas Morning News subscribers have woken up without their daily reading material — missing nearly 60 editions over six weeks.
The suspect is described as sly and quiet. He’s roughly 12 to 16 inches tall, 31 to 44 inches long and weighs between 7 and 14 pounds.
He’s most likely a gray fox.
David McKay solved the mystery on behalf of his mother, who missed four papers last week, three of those days in a row. He lives in Windcliff Harbor, which neighbors Emerald Bay off Lake Palestine’s Saline Bay. That’s off Farm-to-Market Road 344 in the Bullard area.
“My mother has to have that paper first thing, or her day isn’t the same,” McKay, 56, said.
McKay said he thought the trouble was with a new newspaper carrier until the carrier mentioned issues with a fox in nearby Emerald Bay.
McKay put up a game camera, pointing it to the driveway. On the first night, he caught pictures of the culprit, showing the fox walking away with the paper in its mouth.
While is it endearing to think of a sly fox reading the Morning Telegraph to keep up with current events, it was most likely stolen for use as bedding material in its den, according to Shaun Oldenburger, small game program director for Texas Parks and Wildlife.
“They will use the newspaper to keep (pups) dry and warm,” Oldenburger said. “They are looking for things to make it nice and dry for when those pups are born.”
Grey foxes typically reproduce between January and March, with a 53-day gestation period.
This litter will be born a little late in the season, which is not unheard of.
Matt Milling, circulation director for the Tyler Paper, said it’s common for animals to steal papers during breeding season.
“This happens this time of year, particularly the foxes seem to take a special interest in the newspaper,” he said. “On one specific route, the standard procedure is to put the paper on top of mailboxes. It was happening so much we quit fighting the foxes.”
Foxes aren’t the only critters that take interest. Milling has a story of a man who kept missing his paper. A manager personally delivered the edition, calling the man when it was safely in his driveway.
While on the phone, a hawk swooped down and picked it up, he said.
Oldenburger said he didn’t have a definitive answer for that.
“I’ve never known one to swoop down and get newspapers, but if you look at hawk nests, and eagle nests, you’ll find a lot of odd things. It could be an oddity or it may have taken the paper for something else.”
Milling said dogs are also known for stealing papers, particularly if they were disciplined using a rolled up paper in the past. Dogs may shred them on-site or hide them away.
Milling said he once had a customer who found a pile of eight papers in the yard after getting a new dog, and needed help to return them.
People also periodically steal newspapers from their neighbors. That, by the way, is a misdemeanor punishable with a max fine of $500, Milling said.
As for the Emerald Bay area, McKay has set out a have-a-heart trap to try to catch the paper bandit, with the intent of relocating him.
So far, he’s caught raccoons and a neighbor’s cat. Both are apparently fond of seafood-flavored cat food.
He joked it might take a newspaper and a cup of coffee to catch him. Perhaps an edition of “Fox News.”
Foxes are notoriously difficult to catch in a trap, but the newspaper carriers have found a work-around.
“We did get the paper this morning, so life is good for us,” McKay said. “It’s OK if we don’t catch him and we continue to get the newspaper.”
Anyone missing a paper should contact the circulation department at 903-597-1121.