A CUNNING fox has been stealing food and then evading staff at a bird sanctuary.

The vixen has been giving wardens at RSPB Saltholme, near Billingham, the run around as she pinches all the bird feeders.

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Assistant warden, Dean Heward, who called the creature Fantastic Mrs Fox, said: “This vixen is a clever one; we’ve seen her scavenging at the visitor centre feeding station for quite a while, but now she has cubs and is producing milk, the amount of food she needs has increased.”

Visitors to the reserve have been treated to a fox acrobatic display from the vixen as she leaps up to the feeders, unhooks one, and carries it away.

Mr Heward added: “People often don’t realise that foxes eat such a wide variety of food. Yes they eat prey items such as voles, mice and birds, but they also eat brambles in the autumn and are regular visitors to the feeding stations around the reserve where they munch on seeds.

"There’s really no point in trying to stop her from taking food from the feeding stations. Foxes are well known for being clever, so we put up ‘her’ feeder and she leaves the others behind for the birds.”

In an effort to stop the vixen carrying away the more expensive bird feeders, the wardens have been improvising, recycling water and juice bottles filled with seed for the vixen to carry away for her young.

Saltholme is open daily from 10am to 5pm. For more information, contact 01642-456625 or visit www.rspb.org.uk/saltholme