Cottage Q&A: Is a fox stealing our flip-flops?

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This summer, a fox had been coming unusually close to our cottage (and we had been shooing him away). We leave our flip-flops on our deck. One morning, we found many of the flip-flops gone. They were scattered all around the property, and some went missing entirely. Is it possible that the fox was the perpetrator?—Andy Cloutier, McKay Lake, Ont.

Yes. And actually, Occam’s Razor says “probably.” Sure, one of your neighbours could have been messing with you, but “foxes have a reputation for stealing shoes,” says wildlife expert Kim Cabrera of the International Society of Professional Trackers. (Last summer, a fox in Berlin was found with more than 100 shoes in its den. Mostly Crocs. Since foxes can neither apply for credit cards nor shop online, we assume the entire stash was stolen.)

Why snatch footwear? There are theories. “They seem to take items with an odour,” says Fiona Reid, the author of the Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America, who’s witnessed a fox scampering away with a stinky pillowcase. 

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They could also like playing with shoes—that would explain why your flip-flops were scattered around the property. And shoes make for good teaching tools; adult foxes may take them back to their dens for their offspring. Look, Fox Junior! This is how you kill a bunny rabbit! “I’d expect that more with leather shoes than Crocs, but I guess anything that can be tossed in the air and chewed could work,” says Reid.

Since you never caught the thief in the act, we can’t be certain that your loitering fox was to blame. Still. Don’t leave any Air Jordans on the deck next summer.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2021 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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