In our last newsletter, we were delighted to announce that our red squirrels had produced babies – an exciting first for the Sanctuary. Well, it’s fantastic to be able to report that, unexpectedly, they’ve done it again. Head falconer Matt Lott, also our resident Red Squirrel specialist, explains…
We were surprised last year when our young female had babies, as she hadn’t been with us for very long and was still quite immature. This year, the team and I have been working hard at refurbishing the squirrel enclosures and building a new one, so we thought that with all the disruption it was unlikely that we would have any baby squirrels this year. That we have is quite astounding.
When not only did we discover that our young pair had built a drey, but they had positioned it barely four feet off the ground, almost up against the mesh of their enclosure. Red squirrels are notoriously shy, especially when breeding so it seemed quite incongruous that they would choose such a site for their nest!
It’s quite difficult to be certain, but I think we have two babies, which at the time of writing, are around four weeks old and will be fully grown in about another nine weeks.
At this point, I will have to make sure that the youngsters are split from their parents, otherwise the stark truth is they will not survive. No-one seems to know why this occurs, maybe it’s a process of natural selection so that there’s no over crowding in a particular territory, but it is a fact that the kittens must be separated from their parents by the time they’re 13 weeks old. As yet I’m not sure what gender our youngsters are and almost certainly won’t be able to tell until they’re eleven to twelve weeks old. The kittens’ arrival really is a fantastic surprise and shows that our red squirrels are feeling settled and relaxed, great news for our conservation efforts this year!
Just to keep you posted on how the hospital is doing, over the last couple of weeks, we have seen the arrival of two Tawny Owls that are now in our rehab aviaries in preparation for release. We also took in four male Sparrowhawks, all juvenile birds, two of which were found in gardens and had badly bruised wings, one that was found in a chicken coup and one that was an RTA. Hopefully the prognosis is good and we will be keeping tabs on their progress. Sadly, not all our patients can be rehabilitated and in the case of a Kestrel with a severely broken wing, the most humane thing we could do was ask the vet to put the poor bird out of its suffering. Unfortunately, birds can’t tell us when something really hurts, but a badly broken wing is sure to be causing a great deal of pain and in the majority of cases there is no possibility of recovery allowing the bird to survive in the wild.