Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Red squirrel 'wonder-mum' hailed

Red squirrels only survive in a handful of locations in the UK

A red squirrel has been hailed as a supermum after giving birth to her 48th kitten in seven years.

Named Tortoiseshell, she has proved to be one of the UK's most successful breeding red squirrels, regularly producing litters since 2008.

Along with her former partner Tweedledum, she was one half of one of the most successful breeding pairs at Pensthorpe Conservation Trust in Norfolk.

When Tweedledum died in 2012 there had been fears she would never breed again.

But her later match, Bryn, proved to be the perfect partner, with their latest litter producing three new kittens - two male and one female.

Chrissie Kelley, head of species management for the trust, 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 after losing her first partner.

"Red squirrels only survive in a handful of locations in the UK, which is why we're so fortunate to have successful breeding pairs here at Pensthorpe.

"By having her here we can highlight the beauty and character of this enigmatic species by capturing the imagination of our visitors and educating them on their plight."

Wardens predict that the kittens were born between late February and early March and they are now starting to explore their surroundings.

The kittens venture from the drey after six to seven weeks of being nursed by mum and are fully weaned by 10 weeks old.

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