Saturday 14 December 2019

Experts hail squirrel 'wonder-mum'

Tortoiseshell, right, with one of her new kittens. (Darren Williams/PA)
Tortoiseshell, right, with one of her new kittens. (Darren Williams/PA)

A super-mum squirrel has given birth to two new kittens - bringing her offspring to 50.

Seven-year-old Tortoiseshell is one of the most successful breeding red squirrels in the UK and has helped bolster the under-threat species.

Wardens predict that the kittens were born at the end of May but now at 12-weeks-old they are fully weaned and independent from their mother and busy exploring their surroundings at the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust in Norfolk.

Chrissie Kelley, head of species management for the trust and co-ordinator for the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group, said: " Tortoiseshell is simply a 'wonder-mum' of the squirrel world.

"She's been a consistently good breeder and is a fantastic mother to litter upon litter of her young.

"At seven-years-old she's doing a fantastic job; we're thrilled that she's managed to breed once again."

There had previously been fears that Tortoiseshe ll would never mate again after her former partner Tweedledum died in 2012.

But she has since produced litters with her new partner, Bryn.

Ms Kelly said: "Red squirrels only survive in a handful of locations in the UK.

"We are fortunate to have successful breeding pairs here at Pensthorpe, so that we can highlight to our visitors both the beauty and importance of this enigmatic native species and to inform them of the red squirrel's plight."

There are thought to be about 138,000 red squirrels in the UK compared with about 2.5 million greys.

PA Media

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