Fox cub rescued and nursed back to health with cups of Yorkshire Tea after striking up bond with music producer
Les Hemstock, 51, was visiting a wildlife sanctuary where a friend was working, when he met a family of cubs brought in by a member of the public.
The skulk were starving, freezing and riddled with ticks, and in desperate need of medical attention if they were to survive.
One tiny cub - now called Ben - wandered straight over to him, making a bed in the sleeve of his jacket where he fell fast asleep.
The pair have been firm friends ever since, and Les took him home where he nursed the cub back to health with hourly feeds of dog food and regular cups of Yorkshire Tea.
Too tame and fond of human interaction to be released, Les let him stay, and now the pair are "best friends".
The fox even has its own bedroom with toys, a playhouse and climbing frame, but he enjoys following Les around the house, and watching TV from the sofa.
After a year, Ben moved back to the sanctuary, but still visits Les on the weekends, where he still has a spot on the sofa and likes to drink tea from his favourite mug.
Music producer Les, from Doncaster, Yorkshire, said: "Ben chose me as much as I chose him. We bonded straight away after he walked straight over to me and we never looked back.
“People say derogatory things about foxes and I had done all my research - but once you have a bond with a fox, it’s magical. He’s so much fun and so loving to be around - and seeing Ben’s cute little face makes my day no matter how bad I’m feeling.
“He still comes to stay with me on the weekends, like he’s my son. Ben is so cheeky, we’d even play games together - he’d steal and hide things around the house and play chase with me.”
“Foxes are far cleverer than people give them credit for.”
Les received a call from a friend working at charity Fox Angels Foundation in April 2019, who told him of a litter of fox cubs which had recently been rescued.
The cubs were fragile and rescuers thought their mother had been killed by hunting dogs.
A known animal lover and keen activist for the protection of foxes, Les rushed to the sanctuary to help to care for the animals as they were nursed back to health.
Single Les brought Ben to live with him, and they quickly developed an unbreakable bond.
He said: “I looked after him as he recovered and I earned his trust - and the amount of love they give you once you’ve earned that trust is magical. He would jump on my back, and run up to me to greet me as well as making foxy cries to show his affection.”
After a year together, Ben moved out of Les' home and back to the sanctuary, to share an enclosure with female fox Addie, in May 2020.
Les said he always accepted that Ben would grow up and mature, meaning it would eventually be time for him to meet a mate, but said it "came around too quickly".
But Les, who one day dreams of owning his own animal sanctuary, still picks Ben up from the sanctuary to stay with him on weekends.
“At the end of every weekend at home with me, Ben sulks like a stroppy teenager when I have to take him back to the sanctuary," he said.
“But as soon as he gets back there and sees Addie, he bolts to greet her and is happy to be back - so I think he has the best of both worlds.”
Les has written a book about his pal - Ben’s Magic Tail - which is in the process of being published, and will raise money for Fox Angels charity.
Les said: “I’ve always been involved with wildlife charities because it breaks my heart to hear of cruelty to these innocent little animals. I’ve campaigned against abuse and fox hunting, as well as being part of rescue missions like the one that saved Ben.
“I want to do my bit to support some incredible charities that help Ben and other animals like him - and Ben is one of thousands that are rescued every year. Without fox sanctuaries like Fox Angels, I’d never have met my best friend.”