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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nuts for each other: Baby squirrels rescued after being blown out of nest by aftermath of Hurricane Katia

By Chris Slack

Safe and sound: The four baby red squirrels sleep in their bed at the rescue centre. They were found by a passer-by after being blown from their tree-top nest by high winds

When your companions are so soft and inviting it must be hard to resist snuggling up to them like this.

And these four baby red squirrels have a closer bond than most after surviving being just hours from death.

They were blown out of their tree-top nest by high winds as Britain was struck by the tail-end of Hurricane Katia last week.

The squirrels, who are just five weeks old, were found by a passer-by in the aftermath of the gale-force winds.

The rescued animals were taken to a vets' surgery in nearby Alnwick, Northumberland before being sent to the Sanctuary Wildlife Care Centre at Ulgham near Morpeth.

Sanctuary owner Kim Olson said that if the animals had not been found they would have died within hours, attacked by either magpies of cats.

She added that the animals, which weighed just 70grams, had gone into shock and were very sleepy and still.

The woman who found the baby squirrels was not able to find their mother and sanctuary workers fear that she may still be looking for her offspring.

Before they can be released the five-week-old animals need round the clock care and are being looked after by volunteer Eileen Welsh at her home.

A bit of a handful: The five week old kittens play on volunteer Eileen Walsh's arm at her home

Give us a kiss: One of the baby squirrels give its friend a peck on the cheek

Thirsty work: One of the squirrels drinks his latest bottle of goat's milk, which he is fed at three hour intervals

She uses a tiny bottle to feed them goat's milk every three hours and will continue to care for them over winter.

Kim said: 'At this time of year the squirrels would be collecting food for winter but even if we released them in November they wouldn't have enough time.

'We're planning to release them gradually back into the wild next spring at our special unit, which is at a secret location in Northumberland.

'They're doing absolutely brilliantly now, they're extremely lively and mischievous.'

Refreshment: With drops of milk across his face, this squirrel takes its turn to be fed by Eileen

The sanctuary cares for injured and abandoned wildlife, as well as many unwanted farm animals and pets. It currently has 150 animals.

The centre also organises special days for children with special educational needs or behavioural issues.

It was established by Kim, 49 and her husband, Alan Petterson, in 1993 but struggling to find the £70,000 a year running costs Kim fears that the sanctuary's days are numbered.

She said: 'We're probably the largest animal sanctuary in the whole of the North East.

'We look after so much wildlife; we've got a badger cub, young foxes and injured birds of prey.

'"It's a bleak future for North East wildlife if we don't pull through.'



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