Red Squirrels

Whitwell Hall Country Centre is part of the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group (EARSG). This group is part of a wider collective of groups which has enclosures throughout the county and country. Whitwell Hall have two enclosures. one of which is currently under going repair, the other enclosure was built by a group of students from Reepham High School and College. The enclosures are located within the wildlife garden along the main driveway into the Hall.

EARSG was formed in the early 1990’s, running alongside the National Red Squirrel Breeding Programme, to increase the numbers of Red Squirrels and aid the wild population. The group has several members each with their own enclosure and adult breeding pair. Each year, each pair can produce 2 litters with up to 5 kittens. After 16 weeks, the kittens have been weaned and are ready to move either between group members to keep the blood line strong or relocated to release sites where a population already exists.

The Red Squirrel programme and EARSG is crucial for the survival of the species within the UK. The red squirrel population within Britain has been in decline since the early 1930s. The reason for this decline is complex: it is due  in part to the reduction of pine woodland throughout Britain and also due to the introduction of the North-American Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis. It is often thought that Grey Squirrels killing or injuring Red Squirrels is the cause but this is very rare. Grey Squirrels carry a disease known as the Parapoxvirus which is fatal to Red Squirrels. This disease spread, and to a lesser extent the out competing of Red Squirrels by their American cousins for food and habitat in deciduous woodland, is the cause of the Red’s decline and the Grey’s continuing increase.

Currently Whitwell Hall has an adult male called Bracken and a adult female called Cobb. In 2015, Bracken and Cobb produced one litter of four kittens. They were a star attraction during our nature walks with visiting groups. When visiting Whitwell Hall Country Centre keep an eye out for them.

Have a look in the gallery to see pictures of Whitwell Hall’s Red Squirrels.

Some Red Squirrel Facts :-

The red squirrel is a mammal that is native to the UK and is a member of the rodent family.

A red squirrel will live for around five years in the wild and are predated by Pine Martins and Goshawks, both themselves rare.

Squirrels are diurnal…meaning they sleep at night and are active during the day.

Unlike common misconception, red squirrels do not hibernate over the winter.

Red Squirrels can swim.

 

More information about the EARSG and the breeding programme, can be found at www.ea-redsquirrel.org