What Is a Flying Squirrel?
When it comes to flying squirrels, the southern variety is roughly one-third the size of a gray squirrel. Its adults range in size from nine to eleven inches long, including the tail, and weigh between two and four ounces. The adults are grayish-brown, with a white belly and black ring around its large, black eyes. Its thick, skin-like coat extends from the wrist of its front leg to the ankle of its rear leg.
4.9 ounces (139 g)
The average size of a flying squirrel is about seven inches, and its adult weight is around five ounces. The flying squirrel uses a membrane, called a patagium, which extends from the sides of the squirrel’s body, like a square. The patagium helps the flying squirrel glide through the air, and a fully-grown flying squirrel can glide up to 300 feet in the air, which is almost the height of the Statue of Liberty!
The southern flying squirrel is almost a third the size of a gray squirrel, and its body is about nine to eleven inches long (not including the tail). It weighs between two and three ounces. The body color is a light brown to cinnamon color, with a white belly. The tail is either cylindrical or flat. Its long, fluffy fur is soft and silky. The body of the adult flying squirrel is grayish, with white underneath.
Females give birth to 2 litters a year
Northern flying squirrels give birth to one or two litters of offspring a year. Their litters typically contain between two and five young. The young are helpless for the first four to six weeks and are fed milk or soft things such as insects and tender twigs. The young stay with their mothers for up to four months, but some may stay with their mothers even through the winter. Female flying squirrels give birth to only one litter a year, but this does not mean that they do not have a mate.
The Northern flying squirrel has several subspecies. The most common are Yukonensis and Zaphaeus. The northern flying squirrel only lives in the forested regions of Alaska and southern British Columbia. The southern flying squirrel is a strictly nocturnal species, active only at dawn and dusk. Its population density is highest in the Juneau region. It also breeds in the lower 48 contiguous United States and Canada.
They glide rather than fly
A typical flying squirrel is about seven inches long and weighs five ounces. They are characterized by a gliding membrane called the patagium that extends on both sides of the squirrel’s body. A flying squirrel can glide for 300 feet, the tallest of which is the Statue of Liberty. The gliding membrane is flexible, allowing them to glide on all four legs for long distances.
The northern flying squirrel is the largest species, and is the only type of flying squirrel native to North America. Its fur is light brown, with a pale underside. It can grow from 25 to 37 cm long. These flying squirrels feed on a variety of plant materials, including tree sap, fungus, fruits, and bird eggs. They are nocturnal, meaning they are vulnerable to predators at night. Rodents like raccoons can climb trees and catch flying squirrels. They may also hunt for food as pets, as humans have been known to capture and sell these animals for pets.
They are nocturnal
Flying squirrels are among the smallest mammals. They are born blind and weighed less than an ounce. They breed twice a year, during the winter and summer. Females mate once a year, and their first breeding season lasts from January to April. The gestation period lasts about 40 days, and females can give birth to up to six babies per litter. Young flying squirrels are approximately two and a half inches long, from nose to tail. They can glide up to 100 yards, and they can jump to a height of over 4 feet!
What does an adult flying squirrel eat? Southern flying squirrels eat primarily acorns, nuts, seeds, berries, and insects, but they also eat meat. They store some of their food in the nest chamber or tree crotches to use for winter. Northern flying squirrels eat mostly seeds, fruit, and lichens. They also make their nests high up in trees.
They adapt to human habitats
How adult flying squirrels adapt to human habitat is an important question in conservation biology. This rodent is adapted to living in dense forests, which provided a refuge and diversification center for the species during glacial periods. As forests and human habitats have been gradually fragmented over time, new species have emerged. Luckily, some of the most common flying squirrel species can adapt to urban environments, such as the eastern gray flying squirrel.
The increased amount of urban habitat increased the length of flight and movement paths for flying squirrels. While males tended to use a small core area in the forest, they were found to move much farther in urban habitat types. In addition, male flying squirrels have large home ranges, occupying multiple territories, and alternating between these territories regularly. They also often visit the territories of several female flying squirrels.
They are important to forest regeneration
Researchers have discovered that adult flying squirrels are critical to forest regeneration, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Their extensive dispersal of fungal spores and bacteria, which support the growth of trees, is crucial for forest health. These animals have a large basal area, which is about 40 square feet per acre. The lack of large trees in their habitats limits their breeding potential, so they are essential to forest regeneration and maintenance.
A northern flying squirrel’s habitat is composed primarily of old-growth forests with many cavities and structural elements. These cavities are essential for females, as they need high launch points and places for their natal dens. Open understory layers also allow the species to glide farther and save more energy. Adult flying squirrels also use external nests for denning, and it is important that forests maintain large amounts of these trees to ensure a high-quality habitat for both the flying squirrel and for forest regeneration.
Jessica Watson is a PHD holder from the University of Washington. She studied behavior and interaction between squirrels and has presented her research in several wildlife conferences including TWS Annual Conference in Winnipeg.