If you’ve ever encountered a flying squirrel, you were lucky! Maybe you were in awe of their grace. These small creatures are unique and adorable. They’ve got large eyes, soft fur, and the ability to glide through the air. Flying squirrels are found across the United States, including the South. Let’s take a deep dive into interesting facts about these critters.
How do flying squirrel species fly?
Unlike bats, flying squirrels don’t actually fly. Instead, flying squirrels glide. They do this with the help of a furry, wing-like membrane. It extends from their wrists to their ankles. This loose skin acts as the gliding mechanism, and their tail acts as the rudder. It looks effortless. These squirrel species are experts at getting around the tree canopy!
Do any flying squirrels hibernate?
Flying squirrels don’t hibernate, but they do go through a process called torpor. During the cold winter months food is scarce. So flying squirrels reduce their metabolic rate and remain inactive. This conserves energy until the weather becomes warmer. Once their food sources become abundant again, they come out of torpor.
What do flying squirrels eat?
Most flying squirrels are omnivorous. They feed on a variety of food, including nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, and even bird eggs. They also store food in their nests to use during lean periods.
Where do flying squirrels live?
Flying squirrels form close-knit family groups. A squirrel family will live and nest in holes in dead trees. These tiny rodents share their home with as many as 10-15 other squirrels during the winter. This helps them stay warm. They’re social creatures. They communicate with each other through chirps and various body movements.
The northern flying squirrel will only produce one litter of babies a year. This is because of the shortened summers in the north. The southern flying squirrel will have two litters each year. With climate change, the number of squirrel litters may change. When young are born, they rely on their mothers to care for them. This is similar to other mammals (like us!).
Outside of the US, flying squirrels live in North and Central America. They’re also in parts of Asia and Southeast Asia. They inhabit mature and old growth forests where woodpecker holes serve as habitats.
How many species of flying squirrel are there in the USA?
Did you know there are just three different species of flying squirrels in North America? They are:
- Southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans)
- Northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)
- Humboldt’s flying squirrel (Glaucomys oregonesis)
Of the three species, the southern flying squirrel is much more common than the other two.
Southern flying squirrels live from Maine to Florida. They even live in Minnesota and Texas. The northern flying squirrel is found in the Northeast. You can find them in the mountain states like Idaho and Montana. They’re even on the west coast. Humboldt’s flying squirrels live primarily in the Pacific Northwest.
There are around 50 species of flying squirrels across the world. They live in North America, Central America, and even Asia. There are “pygmy” flying squirrels. And there are even “giant” flying squirrels. (Both of the pygmy and giant flying squirrels live on other continents.)
When are flying squirrels active?
Flying squirrels are primarily nocturnal animals. That means they’re most active at night. They have large, owl-like eyes. These help them see in the dark. Their keen hearing helps them navigate while gliding through the trees.
Finally, a fun fact: When flying squirrels descend from the canopy to the forest floor, they don’t climb down like other squirrels. Instead, they jump down from the tree’s height. Then they glide until they hit the ground. And they can glide up to 150 feet in one swoop!
Are you excited about flying squirrels now?
Flying squirrels are fascinating creatures that are unique in their abilities and behaviors. With their gliding skills, omnivore diet, and social nature, these animals are awe-inspiring. Next time you see a flying squirrel, take a moment to appreciate their remarkable way of living. It’s these small things in nature that make it beautiful and worth preserving.
Have you every seen a northern flying squirrel or a southern flying squirrel in the wild? Have you seen giant flying squirrels in a zoo? Let us know in the comments!
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