Kitty the red squirrel being cared for at Kirkley Hall zoo

Kitty the squirrel is being hand-reared at Kirkley Hall zoological gardens, which is home to more than 130 species of animals

Kitty the baby squirrel, which is being hand-reared at Kirkley Hall Zoo
Kitty the baby squirrel, which is being hand-reared at Kirkley Hall Zoo

As many young animals seek to make their way in the wild, some will inevitably fall by the wayside.

For a few, there will be a second chance.

That is the case with Kitty, a five-week old red squirrel which is being hand-reared at the zoological gardens of Northumberland College’s Kirkley Hall campus.

Dog walkers at Gallagher Park in Bedlington in Northumberland were taken aback by the sight of baby Kitty running after their pets.

Telephone calls to Northumberland Wildlife Trust saw the tiny squirrel picked up by Red Squirrels Northern England ranger Glen Graham.

She has been adopted by the zoological gardens, which is home to more than 130 species of animals.

The young squirrel is being cared for by gardens apprentice Mark Tabone as part of his training in animal rehabilitation.

“Hopefully Kitty will now have every chance of growing up,” says Katy Cook, RSNE engaging communities officer.

Steven Sykes, Kirkley Hall animal resource centre manager, says: “ Kitty was a bit clingy for the first few nights but now she goes to sleep in the pockets of staff and is eating quite well.

“She is taking milk, a whole digestive biscuit a day and strawberries and cucumber.

“She may have fallen out of a drey in the park and chased after walkers and their dogs in search of comfort. She is a beautiful little squirrel.”

Woodland adjacent to the zoo is home to red squirrels and Kitty will eventually be housed in a pen nearby.

When ready, she will be released into the wood.

The gardens, which have a full zoo licence, serve as the college’s educational facility for its animal care students.

At weekends and school holidays, the zoo is open to the public.

A red squirrel trail and observation hide will soon be opened after students raised £3,000 to finance the project.

The next aim will be to raise funds for a red squirrel rehabilitation centre. Meanwhile, a well-travelled young female otter has just been released into the wild at Hartburn in Northumberland.

The youngster was picked up by a passer-by near Morpeth who thought that it was in distress.

The RSPCA took it to an otter rehabilitation centre in the New Forest, 330 miles away.

On its return Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s otter expert Kevin O’Hara helped set up a fenced release pen at Hartburn.

“We knew that there were otters in the area and the aim was to acclimatise the youngster to the locality and let the local otters become familiar with her,” he says.

The otter was give a bath of water and fed daily with fish until she was ready to go it alone.

“If people find young animals and they seem to be in danger, perhaps beside a road, they can be moved but the general rule is otherwise leave them alone as the mothers will probably be nearby,” says Kevin.

Wardens on the Farne Islands off Northumberland were also involved in a rescue mission.

Eider duck mothers lead their chicks to the open sea within 24 hours of hatching to the relative safety of the nearby rocky shorelines and harbours of North Northumberland.

Here they will form crèches to provide extra protection for the chicks with non-breeding birds and failed breeders lending a helping hand, says head warden David Steel.

“The ranger team discovered five ducklings wandering around, looking confused, abandoned for reasons unknown,” he says.

“So we did what we do best - we gave the birds a helping hand. Once rounded up, they were soon en-route to the mainland with the aid of our zodiac boat and a cardboard box.

“We located a crèche with 20 females and over 100 chicks. The ducklings were then safely re-released and joined their new mums.”


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