Its a girl!
The UK’s rare red squirrel population could be set for a boost after one of two kittens born at Kelling Heath Holiday Park earlier this year, was found to be female.
There is currently a shortage of females in the national red squirrel breeding programme, so staff at the park are delighted that the news has finally been confirmed. Born in May, the north Norfolk park’s dedicated countryside team had to wait until now to establish the furry pair’s gender because squirrel kittens are notoriously difficult to sex in the first few months of their lives.
The kittens, named Sunny and Summer by popular vote on the holiday park’s Facebook and Twitter pages, have frisky futures ahead of them. The male has been moved to Pensthorpe to find a suitable female, while his sister will move to an adjacent enclosure at Kelling to meet a new male companion.
David Martin, Countryside Manager at Kelling Heath, said: “It will soon be time for us to match-make for a second time, with the arrival of a new male squirrel from Banham Zoo. We hope the pair will hit it off and create a new successful breeding pair.”
The original pair, Red and Ginger – the kittens’ parents - will be staying on site in the hope that they will breed again in April, along with the new couple. David added: “This will be the first time in nearly fifteen years that we’ll have had two breeding pairs of squirrels at Kelling Heath, which is fantastic. We could well end up with squirrels all over the place in spring!"
“We’re pleased that our work to support the squirrel population through this conservation scheme is going from strength to strength. The squirrels we have at the park are happy, healthy and very inquisitive. Visitors love watching them run around and jump from branch to branch. They are enchanting creatures that we are proud to protect.”
The East Anglian Red Squirrel Conservation Society are members of the national breeding programme and work to reinstate squirrels into specially protected and managed habitats across the UK, including Anglesey and Thetford Forest. Thirty years ago the Kelling Heath estate was one of the last places in Norfolk that red squirrels called home, before they disappeared completely due to competition for food with the grey squirrel, loss of habitat and disease. The park decided to keep red squirrels in 1999 and since then it has successfully bred 21 kittens.