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How a handsome killer divided the neighbourhood

Over the summer, I spent some time in the country, taking long walks every day, enjoying the quiet of the natural world. Then, among the flowers, bugs, and birds, I began noticing glistening, sausage-like packages, laid out on the tracks and trails. Organic, certainly, but not, apparently, alive. At first I was puzzled, until I saw that there were sometimes scraps of fur nearby, and I realised what they were. Perfectly intact animal intestines, removed with surgical precision from their rightful owners’ bodies.

An online search suggested that the surgeons might be noble-sounding powerful owls, but were more likely to have been ignoble-sounding feral cats. Sadly, the identity of the victims was less ambiguous. Almost certainly, they were native mammals.

Months later, back in Melbourne, I started noticing the same thing. Little mounds of intact intestines, strewn on the lawn, or the median strip. Then, something I’d never encountered before. Possum carcasses, splayed out, their insides ripped out, quite literally shells of their former selves. I’ve seen plenty of dead possums in my time, but nothing that had been so clearly eviscerated, and devoured.

At the same time, posts started appearing on my neighbourhood Facebook group, with pictures and even videos of foxes wandering the local streets. Initially, the tone was one of delight and excitement. Although there were multiple sightings across a large area, the general assumption was that it was the same fox. Highly unlikely, of course, but the idea did serve to personalise our furry new neighbours. Names were suggested, although in the end everyone just settled on Mr Fox. If he wasn’t so shy, you’d ask him in for a cup of tea and a chat.

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