At Kelling Heath we are pleased to have captive Red Squirrels, which are part of a national scheme for captive breeding.
View our live webcam feeds below which come direct from the enclosure at Kelling Heath
- The Red Squirrel Breeding Programme (Sciurus vulgaris)
- A look back at 2015
- A look back at 2014
- October 2013
- July 2013
The Red Squirrel Breeding Programme (Sciurus vulgaris)
The aim of this scheme is to set up a reserve of animals for use in controlled and closely monitored release projects.
Since 1999 we have bred 34 kittens (as the young are called) which have been either sent to other enclosures or released into the wild where established colonies still thrive.
After the success of breeding four kittens last year 2019 has seen mixed results so far.
Our breeding pair produced just one kitten early in the spring period but sadly the kitten was poorly and did not survive.
As July draws to an end we are pleased to announce that another kitten has been spotted in the compound (22 July). At the moment there is only one but we are keeping our fingers crossed that more could emerge in the coming days.
We introduced a new female into the pen during the winter joining our existing male red squirrel.
We are pleased to say that she has now given birth to her first litter and four kittens can now be seen in the enclosure. There is hope that the pair will produce a summer litter further boosting the numbers of the red squirrel.
December update: Kelling red squirrels to be released in North Wales
Two of our red squirrels born at Kelling Heath in 2018 will be helping to boost Red squirrel populations in North Wales thanks to a breed and release programme led by Pensthorpe Conservation Trust (PCT), a wildlife and ecology charity based at Pensthorpe Natural Park, near Fakenham.
Two squirrels from Kelling will join a further four reds, which have been bred and reared by the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group, in being relocated to Clocaenog Forest near Ruthin in North Wales, where red squirrel populations have declined from 400 to less than 50 in the past 20 years.
Working with Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Clocaenog Forest has been identified as one of three ‘Focal Sites’ for red squirrel conservation, it is hoped that the latest squirrels from Norfolk can help to secure the future of the species.
Clocaenog Forest offers ideal territory for squirrels thanks to the mix of tree species which provide stimulation as well as seeds for food.
With a little helping hand we are confident that the Norfolk squirrels can reverse the worrying decline in this area.
November update: Sadly our breeding pair only produced just the one litter this year. The four kittends were excellent entertainment for visitors showing just how different reds are to the larger grey squirrel population.
During the autumn we moved the four kittens into the adjacent enclosureand and working with the red squirrel breeding group looked for new homes for them.
In mid-November one of the female kittens was taken to create a new breeding pair in the Themelthorpe enclosure. There is also a new release programme being set up in a forest in North Wales and so the other squirrels may go over there depending on survival rates in the breeding enclosures over winter.
So as we end 2018 we have 3 kittens and our breeding pair.
As we start 2017 we looked forward to the year ahead with renewed anticipation.
We ended 2016 with two male red squirrels in the enclosure. In early February we agreed with Pensthorpe to swap one of the males for a female which we hope will breed with the remaining Kelling Heath male.
As the female was new to the enclosure we needed to keep them separated for a few days so the female was able to acclimatise to her new surroundings. The new female was young and unlikely to have a litter in the spring however, we were hopeful the she may breed later in the year.
The good news is that the breeding pair did produce a litter of three kittens in mid-summer. Sadly one did not survive long but the remaining two are both well and will be re-homed to another colony sometime during the autumn of 2017.
2016 has been very frustrating for us at Kelling Heath.
Our current breeding pair was successful in producing several litters in previous years but so far has failed to produce litters in 2016. We believe that this is down to the age of the male squirrel which at 8 to 9 years is very old in squirrel years, which indicates he may be beyond breeding successfully.
We have been actively hunting a new male red but just as females were scarce just a few years ago there is now a desperate shortage of male reds.
We are endeavouring to source a new male but it looks like we will be too late for breeding this year.
On a plus point, our male red may be old in years but he, together with the female red, are still very active in the enclosure delighting visitors to Kelling Heath with their antics.
A look back at 2015
After the highs of last year, 2015 was not a great success for the breeding pair who did not produce any kittens during the year.
Our resident male is now 8 years old which in squirrel years is quite old and sadly he may now no longer be able to reproduce. We are in discussions with the East Anglian Red Squirrel group to bring in a new male, but there is a shortage of them in the country.
Fingers crossed that we are successful and that 2016 will see improved fortunes for the red squirrel population at Kelling Heath which brings great joy to the many visitors that look forward to seeing the squirrels and new kittens during their stay.
A look back at 2014
2014 proved to be an exceptional year with the resident couple producing two litters over the course of the summer. A total of 5 kittens were born and could be seen cavorting about the enclosure entertaining visitors with their antics.
The two kittens born in July have enjoyed the summer sunshine playing to the visitors who stop to admire them.
We now know that we have one male and one female kitten which is really good news as there is a shortage of females within the breeding group nationally. This female will be moved to our smaller enclosure and our existing breeding pair moved back to the larger enclosure which they are used. Once the female is established in the smaller enclosure a male from another Norfolk breeding colony will be brought over and paired up with her to hopefully create a new successful breeding pair.
This will be the first time that we have kept two breeding pairs at Kelling and it could end up with squirrels all over the place! The other kitten our pair produced this year was a male. He has been found a suitable female over at Pensthorpe.
Loved-up Norfolk squirrels Red and Ginger are brushing up on their parenting skills following the birth of their first two kittens at Kelling Heath Holiday Park, near Holt.
The larger of the new arrivals was first spotted in the pair’s enclosure a few weeks ago, but staff from the park’s dedicated countryside team wanted to give it time to get used to its new home before investigating further. Its flame-furred little sibling was only discovered when Kelling Heath Holiday Park’s Countryside Manager David Martin crept in to the pen earlier this week to get a closer look.
Estimated to be around six weeks old and enjoying a diet of hazelnuts, pine nuts, cucumber and carrots both appear to be happy, healthy and at ease in their new surroundings. He said: “This really is fantastic news for everyone at Kelling Heath. We’d been keeping our fingers crossed that Red and Ginger would hit it off and now it looks like all our match-making efforts have paid off.
"It's quite rare for a doe [female squirrel] to give birth to just one kitten, so I wasn’t surprised when we found another closer to the nest. Now we’re all hoping that their parents go on to produce more litters and extend their fledgling family."
The park's newest arrivals come less than 10 months after Red and Ginger were introduced as part of a national red squirrel breeding programme. Female squirrel Ginger arrived at the park from Cornwall last September with staff hoping she would mate with their resident male squirrel and produce the patter of tiny paws. The pair were named following a reader competition in local newspaper the North Norfolk News.
Numbers of the red squirrel have been in serious decline in Britain since the introduction of the grey squirrel, who they compete with for food and habitat.
Kelling Heath Holiday Park is part of the East Anglian Red Squirrel Society. There are now around 15 enclosures in Norfolk and Suffolk taking part in the breeding programme.