A squirrel supermum has stunned wardens at Pensthorpe Conservation Trust by producing her 48th kitten in six years.
Tortoiseshell the red squirrel has surprised staff by producing three more kittens after they feared she would never breed again following the death of her last partner Tweedledum in 2012.
But her latest match with Bryn has also proved to be a successful partnership.
Wardens predict that Tortoiseshell and Bryn’s kittens were born between late February and early March and are now starting to explore their surroundings.
The squirrels form one of two active breeding pairs at Pensthorpe and are looked after as part of the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group. The other breeding female, April, is Tortoiseshell’s granddaughter who is also successfully nursing kittens.
Chrissie Kelley, head of species management for the trust and coordinator for the East Anglian Red Squirrel group, 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.”