Signs of a special friendship

WILDLIFE rescuer Bethany Tyler-King of Hartland and rescued fox Milly not only have a special rapport, but also a special means of communication – sign language.

WILDLIFE rescuer Bethany Tyler-King of Hartland and rescued fox Milly not only have a special rapport, but also a special means of communication - sign language.

Both suffer from deafness, so when the vixen was brought to Bethany's Hartland Wildlife Rescue as a young cub she could hardly have found a more appropriate home.

She had been discovered on a roadway by a local family after having been chased by a group of boys. The family rescued her, took her home and cared for the traumatised young cub - only about six weeks old - but they could not keep her permanently.

So she came to Bethany. After being diagnosed by a vet as being deaf, it became obvious that Milly would never be able to go back into the wild.


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Now 18 months old, the young fox has settled in happily, preferring to live indoors with Bethany than the stresses of an outdoor life.

The special affinity between them includes communicating by sign language.

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Bethany has taught Milly to sit by extending her right hand, palm down and the word 'no' by raising one hand with her index finger pointed. Milly comes to Bethany and places a paw on her when it is time for food.

She has her own bed in a Moses basket inside a children's polytunnel, which she shares with her toys and best friend Angel, the cat. She likes to watch television and has added grated cheese and Coco Pops to her food list, which also includes chicken, tripe and cat biscuits.

Milly spends a lot of time with Angel and another cat Harley, playing with them like puppies and is very gentle, said Bethany.

"She is a very switched-on fox and I will be teaching her other signed commands," said Bethany. "If people could see what I see they would think twice about hunting. Animals have feelings and fears, just like we do."

Bethany also shares her home with 30 hedgehogs, which are awaiting the arrival of spring before they can be found safe outdoor homes, plus five owls, five pigeons, two ponies, seven dogs, 13 cats, a squirrel and a bad tempered parrot.

Bethany, 43, has been caring for rescued animals for 23 years. Her spare room is used as an intensive care unit, a shed is the hospital and her garden houses two aviaries.

"People are very good, donating to Hartland Wildlife Rescue, including food and bedding," said Bethany. "I also go to car boot sales to raise money."

If anyone want to help they can make contact via e-mail: bethtylerking@hotmail.com or by calling (01237) 441899.

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