Lakeside Nature Center
Critter Corner - Flying
DID YOU KNOW:
Flying Squirrels cannot fly; they glide like a hang glider. A loose flap of furred skin called the patagium extends from the squirrel's wrist to its ankle on each side. When the squirrel jumps off a limb, it spreads its legs and glides downward. It uses its tail to slow down before landing.
Flying squirrels are busy at night eating nuts, tree buds, berries, mushrooms, moths and caterpillars. They love wormy acorns. During fall, they gather huge amounts of food to store for the cold winter.
Mom squirrel has two litters of babies, one in early spring and the other in late summer. She gives birth to two to six babies and nurses them until they can eat on their own. Around six weeks, they are able to care for themselves. If a baby falls from the nest, Mom squirrel picks it up by the belly and the baby wraps its legs around Mom's neck to ride back to the nest.
Flying squirrels live where older oak, hickory and maple trees grow. These trees provide food and shelter. These squirrels may live in abandoned woodpecker cavities. They are found throughout the eastern half of the United States. During the winter as many as 20 flying squirrels may snuggle in one tree cavity.
Domestic cats, large owls and tree climbing snakes prey upon flying squirrels. These little squirrels, ten inches in length, are very alert and have excellent eyesight. When they spot an enemy, they scurry to the backside of a tree trunk, quickly climb the tree and glide away.
We seldom see flying squirrels because they are nocturnal. If you have a bird feeding station and you live near a wooded area, stock the feeder with black oil sunflower seeds and peanuts and install a low watt night light nearby. Check the feeder several times every night and perhaps you will see a flying squirrel.
To learn more about flying squirrels
(Photo credits: Squirrel on Ground, US Geological Survey; Squirrel on branch, US fish and Wildlife Service; Squirrel in nest hole, USDA; Squirrel flying, National Parks Service)