The new neighbors in Hobcaw have people talking.
The newbies kick back in the shade under Rob Roberson's pool deck overlooking Hobcaw Creek. They play cat and mouse with Rob Dewey's dog. They trot alongside joggers through the Mount Pleasant neighborhood and nurse their young out in the middle of the street.
Yeah, the red foxes are a hoot — except for one thing. They steal newspapers, right off the driveway, including The Post and Courier.
Roberson finds the neighbors' Sunday edition strewn through his yard. He stacks them on his mailbox for the owners to pick up. On Wednesday morning, he found a paper separated into sections and laid out under the deck.
"The foxes are obviously well-read," Dewey said.
And plentiful. The neighbors estimate a dozen or more mates and kits, or fox pups, roam the yards. Nobody knows how many dens there might be. The yard structures, along with thick landscaping growth and the reedy marsh all make prime spots to den.
"Our neighborhood has been overrun," Dewey said. And Hobcaw is not alone.
A fox recently stood off traffic on nearby Edenton Road. One was spotted strutting down Shellmore Street with a squirrel in its mouth. They have been seen regularly on the Sea Islands, in West Ashley neighborhoods — basically everywhere there's marsh nearby.
It's that rearing time of year.
"Our phones ring off the hook with fox calls," said Jay Butfiloski, a S.C. Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist. He doubts the neighborhood is really overrun.
The number of kits can be startling. A red fox litter is usually as many as a half-dozen kits, and can be more than a dozen.
"It’s common this time of year for foxes to have their young very close to houses and due to the biological demands of raising and feeding young, the adults move a lot during the day," Butfiloski said. "Since the pups don’t know any better, they are often seen out playing in backyards."
As for the newspapers, Butfiloski can't help but grin.
"I guess maybe they just need something to read," he said.
More seriously, it might be that the papers or plastic wraps carry some scent that attracts them, or they're just play hunting.
The animals could be trapped and removed under depredation regulations, Butfiloski said, "but, honestly, if the people can just wait another month or so the situation will 'fix' itself when they go nocturnal again. Plus, there is a big chance of orphaning the kits, probably causing their death."
In the Hobcaw community, most of the neighbors seem fine with the new guys — to a degree.
"I enjoy watching them," Rogerson said. "I guess they do bother people who find their papers taken."