Back in the summer, a guest staying at Whinfell Forest found a little red squirrel in the forest that looked to be injured. The guest did a brilliant job and contacted a member of staff. Two Forest Rangers collected the little red squirrel and took it to the local vets. Our Red Squirrel Ranger, Jerry, was contacted who took the squirrel in and administrated antibiotics and pain relief. It was then that Jerry realised how young the squirrel was and that in fact, it was only a little kitten of 6-7 weeks old. Jerry said
“It seemed from the injuries that the kitten probably fell from its drey (nest) or fallen off a branch and hit his little head and nose. Me and my partner, Sarah, took the red squirrel in to our home and named him Archie”
Jerry lovingly hand-fed Archie replacement milk, a puppy and kitten replacement formula, which is full of goodness and helped to keep him hydrated. Archie stayed with Jerry and Sarah as he recovered, spending his first few days in a hamster cage, with heat pads and a fleece hat. Archie slowly started to nibble on nuts and fruits. Jerry moved Archie into a larger cage which they call the ’rat cage’. A week later he had improved that much that Jerry felt comfortable moving the little red outside in a large pen in Jerry’s garden, fitted with feeders, nest boxes, branches and moss.
Seven weeks after Archie had been in the care of Jerry and Sarah, they both agreed that Archie was ready for his release! They found a safe area, where Jerry knows there are a good number of reds which come to the feeders and is already set with nest boxes. He had a wonderful send-off as he was released into the forest. Glen Franklin, General Manager at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest, said:
“Thanks to the care and attention of Jerry and Sarah, little Archie’s story had a happy ending. Our red squirrels are firm favourites with our guests, and I want to thank the family who found Archie for their swift actions. Archie has captured the hearts of everyone who has seen him and it was such a special moment to see him returning to his natural habitat. I’m sure he’ll now be exploring the forest with his new friends, but he’s always welcome at Whinfell Forest!”
Over time Jerry and his partner Sarah have hand-reared over 20 red squirrel kittens. Jerry expressed
“It is a very demanding job with feeding the kittens little and often every 2-3 hours. However, it is the most rewarding job having looked after them to then watching as they are released back into the forest.”
Center Parcs Whinfell Forest is in Cumbria, one of the most highly populated areas for red squirrels in the UK and is one of a few remaining red squirrel strongholds, providing a haven for the native species. Jerry has worked at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest as the Red Squirrel Ranger for 16 years, where his unique role requires him to work on the village and in a 5km buffer zone around Whinfell Forest, monitoring and caring for the endangered species. Only one other Center Parcs village is home to red squirrels: Longford Forest in Ireland, where there are up to 15 red squirrels and sightings have increased over recent weeks, as the kittens have begun to forage on their own.