Squirrel pair smitten with Kelling Heath kittens
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.
The sex of the kittens will be discovered when they are micro-chipped and removed from the enclosure for their own protection in a few weeks. Red squirrels tend to turn on their offspring once they reach a certain size as they see them as a territorial threat. Both are likely to re-enter the national breeding programme and be found a new home by the East Anglian Red Squirrel Conservation Society.
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. The Park decided to keep red squirrels as part of a national conservation scheme in 1999. Since then it has successfully bred 21 kittens.
Mark Durrant, Kelling Heath Holiday Park’s operations manager, said: “Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at Kelling Heath. That’s why we do all we can to nurture endangered species, such as the red squirrel, so that they flourish in years to come.”
Anyone with suggested names for Kelling Heath Holiday Park’s new squirrel babies should tweet them to @kellingheath or post them on the park’s Facebook page.