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.
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 secure the future of the species.
Clocaenog Forest offers ideal territory for squirrels thanks to the mix of tree species that provide stimulation and seeds for food.
With a little helping hand, we are confident that the Norfolk squirrels can reverse the worrying decline in this area.
Sadly our breeding pair only produced one litter this year. The four kittens were excellent entertainment for visitors, showing how different reds are from the larger grey squirrel population.
During the autumn, we moved the four kittens into the adjacent enclosure and, working with the red squirrel breeding group, looked for their new homes.
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, so the other squirrels may go over there depending on survival rates in the breeding enclosures over winter.
As we end 2018, we have three kittens and our breeding pair.