Field Guide/Mammals/Southern Flying Squirrel

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Glaucomys volans (Southern Flying Squirrel)
Family: Sciuridae[1]
Size: Length: 8.3 to 10.1 inches (21.1 to 25.7 cm)

Tail Length: 3.1 to 4.7 inches (7.9 to 12 cm)

Weight: 2.3 ounces (65.2 grams)[1]
Description: Grayish-brown coat on the top of its body with a creamy white underside, large eyes that help the species see at night, gliding membrane that is a flap of loose skin from its wrist to its ankle that gives it the ability to glide through the air. [1][2]
Similar Species: Similar in characteristics to its cousin, the tree squirrel, gliding membrane is their differentiating trait. [2]

Range: Every state east of Texas including Minnesota, north to Quebec and Nova Scotia Canada and as far south as northwestern Mexico to Honduras. [3]
Habitat: In woodlands that are both conifer and deciduous forests and in suburbs preferring trees such as maple, hickory, oak, popular, and beech for their seeds and uses old woodpecker holes or a natural cavity as their nest sites.[1]
Diet: Omnivores consuming nuts, acorns, seeds, berries, fruit, moths, junbugs, eggs, young birds, young mice, fungus, bark, and leaf buds.[1][4]
Activity: Nocturnal gliding to avoid predators, often spotted in pairs or during winter hibernation have been found in groups upward to 20 in one den.[1]

Reproduction: In the northern locations births peak in April-May and late summer and in the southern locations late February-March and September-October, females have two liters per year and those liters consist of 2 to 3 young per liter but can reach as high as 6 with a gestation period of 40 days.[1] [3]
Lifespan: 5 to 6 years within the wild 10 years within captivity, but most Southern Flying Squirrels probably die in their first year.[1]

Notes: Despite being a nocturnal squirrel, an animal not typically thought to be a pet, Southern Flying Squirrels have records dating back to 1606 and later of them becoming domesticated and described as easily tamed. People have domesticated this species and have made them into family pets and there are websites dedicated to informing and educating individuals on ownership and proper care like the National Flying Squirrel Association website. The name of the species can me misunderstood if taken literally because in fact the Squirrels do not fly like a bird or other winged animals, they glide. Jumping from tree to tree or other structures and extending the membrane connected to their arms and legs allow the species to glide through the air giving them the ability to travel through the air with great control. Southern Flying Squirrels can make 90 degree turns while in flight and the maximum glide is up to 262 feet (80 meters). They may not be able to fly like a bird but the capabilities they do have maneuvering through the air are very impressive and fascinating. While flying around within their natural habitats these squirrels consume fungi and the spores that are left behind in their feces is thought to be importance in the growth and sustainability of trees, trees that they may actually have helped to produce by scattering hardwood seeds. [2] [1]
Southern Flying Squirrel

  1. a b c d e f g h i Fox, David; Mulheisen, Michael (1999), "Glaucomys volans", Animal Diversity Web, http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Glaucomys_volans/, retrieved October 11, 2012 
  2. a b c National Flying Squirrel Association, http://www.nfsa.us/home, retrieved October 11, 2012) 
  3. a b Linzey, A.V.; NatureServe (Hammerson, G.) (2008), "Glaucomys volans", IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Version 2012.1), http://www.iucnredlist.org/, retrieved October 11, 2012 
  4. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, http://www.mnh.si.edu/mna/image_info.cfm?species_id=106, retrieved October 11, 2012)