Blind date for red squirrels at Kelling - but did they find love?

For a year, he has been lovelorn and lonely, with just another male red squirrel for company.

But today his prayers were answered when a vision of loveliness was released into his pen at Kelling Heath Holiday Park in north Norfolk.

But, rather than welcoming the fiery red-headed female with open paws, the pair gave each other the brush off.

The six-month-old female bolted to a neighbouring pen, leaving the 18-month-old male to think up some chat-up lines to lure her back.

It was a disappointing first date for the endangered and protected twosome. But countryside manager David Martin said it often took 'a few days' for red squirrels to get to know each other.

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The speed dating session is part of a longer game of hatch and match, with conservationists trawling the UK for suitable potential partners to boost the red squirrel population.

This female was picked up by Mr Martin on Wednesday from Paradise Park in Cornwall, as part of a swap deal that saw the other male from Kelling Heath taken to Cornwall to meet a prospective partner.

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Mr Martin said: 'She had an eight-hour journey back from Cornwall in a box in my car, so she is probably not in the best of moods.

'She's young as well, so we'll just have to see how they get on.'

The mating game is a tricky business, with a nationwide shortage of captive-bred female red squirrels and a need to ensure that any couples have British, not European, genes.

The red squirrel pen was established at Kelling Heath 15 years ago. As recently as 25 years ago, there were still red squirrels in the wild at the location.

If this pair successfully breeds, any youngsters could well be released into the wild at Anglesey, which has a growing red squirrel population.

Mr Martin said the current breeding season was about to end, and thought that they were most likely to breed next March or April.

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