Southern Flying Squirrel
(Did you ever see such a cutie in your life?)
My yard is overrun with grey squirrels. Probably no fewer than 20 to 25 race around my big trees at times. They are very clever, and I do admire much about them, but they are big, fat pests at times, too. I’ve had to go to great lengths to keep them out of my bird feeders, for one thing. However, there is another group of squirrels living my trees, and until this past summer, I never even knew they were there. The southern flying squirrel is almost completely nocturnal in its habits, so unless you sit up late at night with a big flashlight close by, watching for movement in the trees or along the ground, you probably wouldn’t know they were in your yard, either.
I knew we had plenty of them in Florida, since I’ve seen them often when canoeing at night, gliding between the trees along the creek and sometimes “flying” across it. But it never occurred to me that they were also common in our urban landscapes. I found out differently when Mark discovered a nest on the ground after a storm, while I was away for the day. When I got home, he told me he saw a “bug-eyed critter” of some sort scurry away from the nest and climb up the side of a big oak. And when he looked into the nest, he saw these tiny little baby “things,” which he had no clue about. As soon as I looked in the nest, I knew they were baby flying squirrels. The fold of skin that runs from their front legs to their back legs was clearly visible. They looked a lot like this:
When I volunteered at Florida Audubon many years ago, I hand raised orphan birds squirrels, and other critters by the dozen, but never flying squirrels. I researched a bit online and found out they were very different from grey squirrels in their needs, and could be very tricky. Since we could not put the nest back where it came from, I called a local rehab establishment clear across Orlando from us for help. She agreed I shouldn’t try to feed them on my own. We ended up taking them out to her first thing in the morning, and spent some time watching her feed our little ones, and the other baby flyers she had. Some of the orphans already being cared for were a bit larger, and so adorable! They were more like these pictures:
Baby Flying Squirrel #1
I can’t tell you how happy I am to know these little guys are around my house. I’ve thought about waiting up long enough at night to catch them coming out to forage for food, but I’ve never managed to stay awake long enough. As you can probably tell from the pictures, these guys are MUCH smaller than grey squirrels, and their fur feels very different, too. It’s silky and soft. But the most endearing thing is the sweet expression on their faces. Those enormous eyes, which help them see at night, are so expressive and adorable. If I weren’t pretty much against making pets out of wildlife, generally–and I didn’t have a house filled with hungry cats and hounds–I’d be sorely tempted to get one. But I know I won’t. It’s better for them to live outside and do their thing.
I have a few more pictures to share with you, and then some links to the websites where I found them. There is a lot of information available on these interesting animals for those interested in learning more. One thing I can pass along is that in addition to acorns and other nuts, they also eat insects, and fungi. In fact, one article says they will come down on the ground and dig up some types of fungi, going down deep to get the entire stem. I have found evidence of something digging and eating mushrooms in my yard, and now I think I know who the culprit might be. I wonder if they ever glide down to my grey-squirrel-proof feeders from above and help themselves to sunflower chips. I hope so!
Flying Squirrel in Action
Look at those BIG eyes!
For more info on flying squirrels, check out these interesting sites: