Squirrel kitten success in The West Country

There was great excitement at the Trewithen estate in Cornwall recently when two red squirrel kittens were born, a landmark moment in a captive-breeding programme to support the reintroduction of the endangered mammals to the wild. The red squirrel disappeared from Cornwall in 1984, forced out by the hugely successful grey squirrel.

The Cornwall Red Squirrel Project was created in 2009 by a group that included Trewithen’s owner Michael Galsworthy and Caerhays’ owner Charles Williams with the aim of reintroducing the tufty-eared creatures to the Lizard and West Penwith areas—the other captive-breeding site is at Paradise Park in Hayle.

Three adults—two females and one male—were introduced to Trewithen in 2012, the male being released into the pen by The Prince of Wales. Project co-ordinator Natasha Collings explains: ‘The Trewithen squirrels are part of a National Studbook, so the young will be released or will go on to form part of other breeding projects.’

At the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group, a female named Tortoiseshell has, remarkably, given birth to her 50th kitten since 2008, despite fears that she would stop breeding when her mate Tweedledum died in 2012. However, new mate Bryn has obviously met with her approval.

* This article was first published in Country Life Magazine on September 10 2014

* Follow Country Life magazine on Twitter