Friday 24 May 2019

Rescued fox Grainne is just wild about her 'Dr Doolittle'

Patsy Gibbons from Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, pictured with Grainne, his pet fox. Grainne was discovered trapped in a cardboard box in 2007. Photo: DYLAN VAUGHAN
Patsy Gibbons from Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, pictured with Grainne, his pet fox. Grainne was discovered trapped in a cardboard box in 2007. Photo: DYLAN VAUGHAN

Sean Keane

HE has been dubbed Ireland's answer to Dr Doolittle -- and the title has clearly gone to his head.

Patsy Gibbons and his devoted vixen Grainne have become local celebrities in Thomastown in Co Kilkenny after he came to her rescue over two years ago.

Patsy, who runs an unofficial refuge for birds and animals at his cottage, took in Grainne as a cub when she was found abandoned, malnourished and close to death.

The three-week-old cub was discovered in May 2007 trapped in a cardboard box in the grounds of St Columba's Hospital in the town by Patsy's brother Eugene. Knowing his brother's affinity with animals, he immediately brought the tiny fox to him.

"I had always wanted a fox and was delighted when Eugene brought her," said Patsy who also cares for two dogs, one donkey and flocks of various farmyard fowl.

"She weighed 1lb when I got her and it took a while to bring her around because she must have been in the box for a while."

It is thought that Grainne became separated from her mother while they were foraging for food in the grounds of the hospital.

While their unorthodox friendship didn't get off to the best of starts -- Grainne bit Patsy at his first attempt to feed her -- she is now completely at home with him and thinks nothing of perching on her master's shoulders as he walks through the town. And the young fox has developed a sweet tooth devouring biscuits and fruit cakes, especially those with cherries or raisins. She now tips the scales at 31lb.

In the wild, foxes eat a variety of small mammals and they also feed on worms and grubs as well as fruit in the summer and autumn. In urban areas they often forage through domestic rubbish.

Hunting

"She misses nothing and, going along if something is different or new, she will stop and examine the scene," explained Patsy.

He also takes her hunting for rabbits. "She is lightening fast and has the rabbit caught in quick time," he added.

While Grainne has her own den next to the cottage, she stays indoors at night and enjoys watching television or listening to Patsy play his harmonica.

It was Patsy's sister-in-law, Helen, who decided upon the name 'Grainne' for the sociable fox. "When (Helen) said it, we knew it fitted her," he said.

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