Flying Squirrel Biology
2018 Update to Pest Wildlife Management

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What Are Flying Squirrels?

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The largest known flying squirrels are the woolly flying squirrels, which are primarily found in Pakistan, and the Pygmy flying squirrels that inhabit Malaysia and Borneo are the tiniest flying squirrels known.

Birds of prey, foxes, raccoons, snakes, coyotes, even domestic cats and dogs as well as other related animals are the natural predators of flying squirrels because of their small size. But, hunting flying squirrels is usually a cumbersome thing to do as they're nocturnal, only coming out at night, and thereby escaping more of the predators.

Appearance: The flying squirrel is a medium sized, close relative of the common squirrels with a mean weight and length of 5 oz and 10 inches respectively. It has fur, big, bulging eyes and a flattened tail. The tail of a flying squirrel, normally used for balancing, can easily break off its own body with no adverse outcome. Though they normally have whitish belly, their coat color ranges from black to brown, tan, white or gray. Their distinctive feature is a stretchy and furry membrane that connects the front and hind limbs, called the patagia.

Behavior: Flying squirrels do not really fly like birds or bats, they simply have the ability to glide from one tree to another with their patagia (a rubber-like membrane between their legs). They start their patagia like a parachute when in the air and they use their paws for landing while the tail acts like brake during the landing procedure.

They're also nocturnal and their big, bulging eyes are adapted for foraging at night. Another characteristic for after dark foraging is the flying squirrel's feelers, which are specialized whiskers that help their ability to sense their environment at night. They forage at night to discover foods and this nocturnal nature lets them keep out of the way of predators. However they frequently still fall prey to snakes, climbing mammals and birds of prey.

They don't live solitary lives and as such can live in massive groups of up to 20 squirrels inside holes in trees or dens. They don't hibernate during winter, but only reduce their actions and they generally come together to keep their bodies warm.

The gestation period of approximately 38 days follows after breeding and eventually, an average of 4 baby flying squirrels are born per litter. The new offspring are born naked, blind and helpless and they are reliant on the mother flying squirrels for the first month or two of their lives. The young ones open their eyes and begin to have fur from the end of the first week; they then learn to glide from their mother, who takes complete responsibility of parenthood. After 3 months, they're capable of gliding perfectly and can leave their mother's nest by then.

The normal lifespan of flying squirrels is 6 years, though flying squirrels tend to live longer when they're captured and raised by people; in zoos for example, they can live up to 15 years.

Habitat: Flying squirrels mainly live around trees and they especially like to occupy woodpeckers' holes, nest boxes, snags, abandoned nests of birds and other squirrels. A number of them might even den in homes or barns. They can glide easily from one tree to another while foraging. They're adapted to living in forests and woodlands at any location all over the world.

Diet: As a consequence of being dependent on their environment for the kind of foods to consume, flying squirrels are omnivores. They tend to eat anything available in their reach. Their important foods are seeds, nuts, fruits, insects, mushroom, eggs, carrion, young mice, vegetables, small snails, spiders, buds, berries etc.. In addition they store up food which will be utilized during the chilly winter season.

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