Red squirrels? In Suffolk? Surely not? The short answer - well, yes. Not due to some natural phenomenon where a small corner of Suffolk has been revealed to be a haven for red squirrels, but rather the work of the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary at Stonham Barns where you can get up close and personal with a handful of charismatic squirrels.
Numbers of red squirrels drastically declined from the 1950s, primarily due to the introduction of the grey squirrel from North America. Grey squirrels carry a disease which does not affect their health, but will often kill the red squirrel. Grey also out-competed red squirrels for resources and a decline of their habitat seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for the species in the UK. Thankfully, conservation efforts have helped to improve the population of red squirrels in the wild and captivity.
The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary was established as a charity all the way back in 2001, and ever since has operating to care for the county’s owls and the promotion of owl conservation throughout the UK. Suffolk Owl Sanctuary has been the home for a number red squirrels for several years now, and have recently gained a family of meerkats as well!
The red squirrels live in enclosures made from wire mesh, meaning they will scurry not only across the ground, stirring up leaves - but will climb up the sides of their enclosure to take a better look at you. These agile animals are natural acrobats - seeming to constantly twirl and jump about. This can make them a little tricky to photograph, but if you’re patient enough you’ll find the squirrels will happily settle down for a minute or two - especially if they find some food to occupy themselves with.
Did you know?
Beatrix Potter’s Squirrel Nutkin is always portrayed as a red squirrel
The latin name for the red squirrel is sciurus vulgaris
Squirrels which survive their first winter have a life expectancy of 3 years, with individuals in the wild living for up to 7 years and red squirrels in captivity living for 10 years
Red squirrels will eat seeds, fungi, nuts and berries. Rare instances show that red squirrels have also eaten bird eggs and nestlings
Red squirrels have one or two litters a year, with as many as 6 kits being born in a litter, although the average is closer to 3 or 4 kits
In their natural habitat, red squirrels live in coniferous woods and they love to feast on hazelnuts by cracking the shell in half, or nibbling on pine coats to leave what looks like an apple core behind. If you’re on the lookout for red squirrels elsewhere in the UK, head towards Scotland, the Lake District and Northumberland. The Isle of Wight also has a red squirrel colony,
Stay in Suffolk with Suffolk Cottage Holidays! Vine Barn, Otley (sleeps 6), Akenfield, Letheringham (sleeps 2) and The Garden House, Hasketon (sleeps 2) are all close to Stonham Barns and nestled in the Suffolk countryside.