June 12, 2009 07:00 PM

The citizens of Fohren, a quiet hamlet in the tree-covered hills of western Germany, were faced with a mystery. What strange thief had been stealing their shoes for the past year?

The thief didn’t seem to have a preference for any type of shoes and made off with everything from flip-flops and old slippers to muddy hiking shoes and rubber boots. The only thing the crimes had in common: The bandit had taken advantage of the fastidious locals who left their shoes on their doorsteps to avoid tracking in dirt.

This week, the case took a turn and the mystery appears to be solved, reports German news site Spiegel Online. A forest ranger chanced upon a large fox den in the woods outside of town. While the ranger didn’t see the vixen and her pups, he did find a vast shoe collection. Some 120 stolen shoes have been found so far and laid out at a local palace, ready to be claimed by their rightful owners.

While the perpetrator (not pictured) has yet to be caught red-handed–or, red-pawed–authorities believe they can explain the shoe fetish. “The shoes may well be intended as toys for the cubs because there are bite marks made by little teeth on the shoelaces,” Rudolf Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, the count who lives at the local palace, told Spiegel Online.

The raid on her pups’ toys has not led the perpetrator to reform her thieving ways. Quite the opposite in fact. “More shoes have gone missing in the last few days,” von Kesselstatt said. After all, those little pups need their fun!

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