Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans)

      

Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family:    Sciuridae
Size:    Length: 8 to 10 inches (21 to 25 cm)
Weight: Up to 4 ounces (113 g)
Diet: Nuts, seeds, berries, fruit, buds, bark; occasionally a June bug or bird egg
Distribution: North America
Young:  1 to 7 young, once or twice per year
Animal Predators:  Hawks, owls, raccoons, foxes, weasels and domestic cats
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: 3 to 5 years in the wild and up to 13 years in captivity

 

Facts/Trivia:

        Northern and southern flying squirrels are the only nocturnal tree squirrels.

        Although northern flying squirrels are larger, in regions where they overlap, southern flying squirrels tend to be the dominant ones.

        Its scientific name means flying (volans) grey mouse (glaucomys).

Description

Southern flying squirrels are slightly smaller than northern flying squirrels. They are brown-grey in colour with white bellies and large, dark eyes. Their ears are pointed, and they have a flat, yet bushy, tail. Flying squirrels do not actually fly, but they can glide up to 87 yards (80 m). A thin fold of skin stretching from their forelegs to their hind legs opens like a parachute. They leap from a branch, holding their arms and legs akimbo and glide to another branch or to the ground, landing upright with their hind legs touching first. These squirrels have a summer and a winter coat, and moult twice a year. 

 

Habitat

Their preferred habitat is hardwood forests that contain trees such as oaks, hickories and walnuts for food and shelter. Flying squirrels den in hollow trees or abandoned woodpecker holes. In summer, they sometimes live in leaf-lined nests in trees, but will move to a den for the winter, often cuddling together with other squirrels for warmth. 

 

Feeding Habits

Their diet is mostly vegetarian: nuts, seeds, berries, fruit, buds, bark, but also the occasional June bug or bird egg. When the shortening of the daylight signifies the approach of winter, squirrels busily gather nuts and store them in tree cracks or crevices. They are active all night long in this pursuit and can store several hundred nuts in one night. They have been known to collect 15,000 nuts in one season. 

 

Reproduction

Mating season is early spring, resulting in a litter of 1 to 7, with a second litter sometimes occurring in late summer. Males and females sometimes stay together in pairs until shortly before the birth, at which point the male leaves and the females cares for her young alone. The female is very devoted to her young, seldom leaving them, and moving them to a new nest at the first sign of danger. The babies are tiny, each one weighing less than a quarter-ounce (7 grams). They are weaned at six to nine weeks and begin gliding soon after. The youngsters usually remain with their mother until she gives birth to a new litter.

 

Behaviour

Because of the extra flap of skin and fur they carry, they are extremely slow runners and if a predator is nearby while the squirrel is on the ground and not near a tree, they will hide rather than try to run to safety. Squirrels are extremely active and agile. While female squirrels do not allow other females within their territories, the territory of a male will overlap that of other males. 

 

Conservation

Southern flying squirrels are listed as being of Special Concern in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, by Environment Canada. In Nebraska they are listed as threatened by Nebraskas Endangered Species Program. Southern flying squirrels are listed as Uncommon in Kansas. 

 

Sources

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/glaucomys/g._volans$narrative.html

http://museum.nhm.uga.edu/gawildlife/mammals/rodentia/sciuridae/gvolans.html

http://www.ngpc.state.ne.us/wildlife/flysqu.html

http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/tmot1/glauvola.htm

http://www.ku.edu/~mammals/fly-squir.html

http://wildwnc.org/af/southernflyingsquirrel.html

http://www.speciesatrisk.gc.ca/Species/English/SearchDetail.cfm?SpeciesID=168

http://www.ngpc.state.ne.us/wildlife/flysqu.html

http://spot.colorado.edu/~halloran/sq_sofly.html

http://www.mammalsociety.org/statelists/ksmammals.html

http://www.ngpc.state.ne.us/wildlife/ngthreat.html

http://www.enature.com/fieldguide/showSpeciesRECNUM.asp?recNUM=MA0113

Southern Flying Squirrel Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US