A vixen has been nicknamed the "Imelda Marcos" of Germany's fox population after being identified as the culprit behind the theft of more than 120 shoes in a provincial town.
For more than a year, the inhabitants of Föhren in Germany's hilly Eifel district were baffled by the overnight disappearances of boots, shoes and slippers from their doorsteps and garden patios.
But the mystery was reported to have been solved yesterday after a forester came across dozens of shoes in a fox's earth outside the town while he was felling trees.
The haul included wellington boots, muddy hiking shoes, slippers and even a steel-capped boot. "I managed to extract 86 shoes from the entrance with a stick," said the forester, Rolf Willerscheidt. "I found more in a quarry nearby. Some were even in pairs and looked brand new."
Rudolf Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, the local count who lives in the town's Föhren Palace, put the entire collection of shoes on display at his residence on Wednesday to enable the townsfolk to come and retrieve them.
His verdict was that the vixen had probably stolen the shoes for her cubs. "She's clearly got a thing about shoes," he told Der Spiegel magazine.
"They may have been intended as toys, because there are tiny teeth marks on the laces of many of them. It's impressive that she found time to steal them as well as finding food."
The vixen has been likened to Imelda Marcos, the wife of the former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who amassed more than 2,500 pairs.
The vixen was still at large yesterday. "There have been two more shoe thefts since the shoes were found," said Mr Willerscheidt. "My best advice is for people to bring in their shoes at night."