Acrobats of the Night Sky | Southern Flying Squirrels | by Yara Delgado ……
Late at night, while we are all sleeping comfortably in our beds, there is a tiny rodent that comes out to live its life in southeastern Canada, eastern United States and southward as far as Mexico and Honduras. An adorable flying squirrel with big eyes and gliding abilities that we rarely get to see because they come out only at night and remain hidden during the day.
The southern and northern flying squirrels are the only two native flying squirrels species found in North America and you can tell them apart easily because the northern has grey belly fur and the southern has it white. Also, the northern flying squirrel is a little bigger in size, they can measure 10-12 inches long while the southern’s are only 8-10 inches. That’s including the tail which can represent ⅓ to ½ of their body length! They’re pretty small.
Unfortunately, if babies fall out the nest they become a very easy prey. We receive many calls of baby squirrels found alone and we try our best to reunite them with their mothers, putting them up on a tree and waiting for the mother to show up, but because they remain hiding during the day, it can get very tricky.
This year we have raised and released over 40 orphan flying squirrels and one deemed non-releasable. She is our incredibly beautiful ambassador, Luna, that came to Owl’s Nest Sanctuary in the beginning of 2018 when she was about 1 year old. She was found in a school yard, not being able to move her back legs. It was determined she had a spinal injury and would not regain the use of her hind legs. Due to her paralysis she cannot climb well or glide and therefore she was deemed non-releasable.
Luna lives at Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife in a special small cage customized with low levels so she can move around without injury. She has a very important and valuable role in the organization, attending events and educational talks to spread awareness of our wildlife and the challenges they face today. She enjoys a diet of tree nuts, berries and mealworms (fresh and freeze dried) and her favorite snack is walnuts. She does not talk often but when she does, she makes the unmistakable high pitch “tweet” or chirping sound that flying squirrels use to communicate.
Some people think that a more appropriate name for these animals would be “gliding” squirrels because they don’t actually fly like most birds do. Instead, they can travel up to 250 feet in a single glide, when launching from a location of about 60 feet high. Although it’s more commonly to see them gliding a much shorter distance of about 20 feet. They can also make 90 degree turns mid-air! And they do all this while extending their limbs to expose a gliding membrane that is hidden beside their bellies, and using this membrane and their tails to maneuver turns and control speed. These abilities make them exceptional escape artists.
Because they are so little, they are an easy prey and have many predators like hawks, owls, tree snakes, house cats, bobcats, racoons and other climbing mammals. This is why they strictly come out only at night and hide during the day. They prefer seed-producing hardwood trees to build their nests and often take over abandoned nests that woodpeckers and other birds leave behind.
Doreen S Damm
If you happen to find any wildlife in trouble, please report it to Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife, a Federally and State Permitted Rehabilitation & Non-Profit Organization. The fastest way to reach us is by texting (813) 598-5926 and we will dispatch a volunteer as soon as possible.
There are several ways you can be a part of caring for our injured and orphaned wildlife. As a non-profit, monetary donations and supplies are always appreciated. 100% of all gifts go directly to animal care.
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