EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Newspapers were mysteriously disappearing from doorsteps in Eureka Springs.

In one neighborhood, a dozen copies of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette vanished over three weeks in July.

Virginia Litchford, 76, knew well she and her daughter, Joy Salazar, had delivered those papers. But by sunrise they were gone.

Finally Salazar found a suspect — foxes.

To test her hypothesis, Salazar slathered Vicks VapoRub on the outside of the plastic newspaper bags. It worked to keep cats off her furniture, she said, so she thought it might deter foxes, too.

Sure enough, it did.

A fox apparently carried one newspaper a few feet before finding it distasteful and dropping it on the lawn, Litchford said.

Vicks VapoRub is a cough suppressant and topical analgesic made by Procter & Gamble. The active ingredients are synthetic camphor, eucalyptus oil and menthol.

The carriers left notes to let customers know about their plan, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

"It kind of dries out real quick," Litchford said of the ointment. "No one has complained."

Charles Whiting, 72, said he didn't mind a little VapoRub on his newspaper bag.

"You can smell it kind of, so I'd be real careful getting it out of the plastic bag," he said.

Whiting said he had called twice to report missed papers, and Litchford called him back to explain her fox theory and the VapoRub remedy.

"We asked him if we could put Vicks salve on it, and he said sure," Litchford said.

Whiting said a friend picked up his paper one day and told him someone was playing a joke on him. Then Whiting explained the scheme.

Whiting also bought an "ultrasonic" pest animal repeller.

"Since they did that and I put out this sensor, I haven't missed a paper," Whiting said.

Litchford said the deliverers used the VapoRub for about eight days in a neighborhood that includes Owen and Hilton streets. If papers start disappearing again, they can reapply the VapoRub.

Litchford and Salazar live in Berryville, 13 miles east of Eureka Springs. They begin delivering the newspaper around 1 a.m. and finish about four hours later, Litchford said.

They see a lot of animals on their route.

"We see foxes almost every night," Litchford said. "Coons, possums and armadillos almost every night. Lot of frogs out there on the wet highway get to hoppin' and having a good time."

Litchford said she almost hit a fox one night when she threw a newspaper in its direction.

"We've hit a deer, and we've been hit by several deer," she said. "They run into the side of our truck."

Litchford said she doesn't know why the foxes were stealing newspapers. One theory is they use the paper in their dens.

Robert "Butch" Berry, the Eureka Springs mayor, said he has seen more foxes in town over the past few years.

"They just add to the wildlife that's already here," he said.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com