Saturday, 28 June 2014

Flying squirrels

Whenever we find a dead critter I use the opportunity to photograph it, to learn more about how it
looks. This is the case for this flying squirrel. They are more than just tree rats, as their skin folds allow them to glide (but not truly fly)!
Sat. Critters #30
Predators include similarly nocturnal owls, of course, as well as other tree climbers such as weasels, fishers, and snakes. While they are susceptible to all sorts of predators, sadly I've found a drowned mouse and a chipmunk in my water barrel. I've since covered the 2" drainage spout with mesh. Who knew they'd climb up that spout?

We've found a Barred owl, Flicker, as well as a deer carcass on the property. Some hit by cars, some smuck into the glass, but not often.

 I use the opportunity to learn about them. 

Here are my photos from one dark night, when Sadie told us we had company. I'd never seen one, nor knew they were nocturnal.


Two Different Species in NA

I did some more research, just for my own curiosity.
There are two species on this continent: Northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans) and Southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus). The Northern inhabit all of Canada, right up to the Yukon, as well as Alaska. The Southern can be found in the Eastern part of the continent, from Florida up to Michigan.
They are about the size of a red squirrel, about a foot long including the tail, with lovely fur flaps or membranes that allow them to glide. No, they don't fly, but they can steer with their flaps, up to 50m diagonally from a tree to the ground, able to make turns.

Scent glands

They have scent glands in their cheeks, to help them find their way, and they live in tree hollows of one sort or another. Nesting materials, like many tree rats, includes soft, cozy mosses and shredded tree bark.
The are omnivores, eating just about anything in season: berries, lichen, fungi, insects, worms, slugs, bird's eggs, tree buds and even sap. There are horror stories of them drowning in open sap buckets.

Impacted by Climate Change, Habitat Loss, Species Interbreeding

As with many species, of both flora and fauna, they are believed to have been impacted by both Climate Change and Habitat Loss. Scientists have found that the Northern and the Southerners have crossed paths, and some research shows that about 5% of the study population had mixed genes.
Now, you know governments, and lobby groups. They are arguing about what to call the mixed breed. The US  National Flying Squirrel Association, wants it to be more American, according to the 72-year-old co-founder. 
According to an October article...Southern Flying Squirrels Land in Canada
Southern flying squirrels are moving into the habitat of Northern flying squirrels. Now people are debating what to call the hybrid offspring. 
Steve Patterson, a Canadian educator who uses flying squirrels to teach ecology to school kids and other groups, says in presentations he already refers to the Northern species as "Canadian" because they're "quiet, reserved and peace-loving," he says. "The Southern, on the other hand, is noisy and boisterous, and bullies the Northern flying squirrel," which is the larger but more docile of the two, he says.

Harbouring a Wild Animal

There is, of course more controversy. In Canada it is illegal to keep wild animals without special accreditation. The same is true in some states. Steve Patterson, around 2004, tried to adopt a young squirrel for educational purposes. THAT is a long story, but he did, finally, winHis web page is fabulous, featuring many topics on this little critter: taxonomy, anatomy, predators, life cycle (about 5 years),  parasites (e.g., lice, mites, fleas), range maps


Margaret Adamson said...

Well you certainly did your research and I appreciate it. Never seen one of these tiny animals and t was good to get some shots of it. Have a great weekend.

TexWisGirl said...

sweet little thing. i've never seen one in person.

thewovenspoke said...

Wow, a creature I have never seen, and a lot of info on them. thanks.

eileeninmd said...

How cute, I have never seen a flying squirrel.. Great post! Thanks for sharing your post with my critter party.. wishing you a happy weekend!

Karen said...

Oh that's so sad to see the dead little guy. Wonder what happened to him.
They sure are cut though and we are always on the lookout for them when we are at the cottage.

Karen & Beep

Christian Weiß said...

Great to have flying squirrels in nature. Here they are kept as pets.

Red said...

You found that you had to go out at night to see these critters. If you find a clearing in the bush and look up ,, you may be lucky enough to see a flying squirrel glide across the clearing. I didn't think there were any here but found out that there is a good population.

Gunilla Bäck said...

They're so cute. I've never seen one in person.

William Kendall said...

I saw one for the first time when my parents moved up to cottage country- one would glide down to a bird feeder from a nearby tree.

Felicia said...

they sure are pretty little critters.

Hilary said...

Awww so sad to see that he didn't survive. We had a pair of them (much to our surprise) this past spring but I've not seen them for a few weeks now. They are sweet.

SweetMarie said...

MadSnapper sent me your link, glad she did! I'm an animal lover. I've rescued many and love many now. We have four pups and one cat. We never pass up an animal in need.

Your blog is really interesting! Hope you have a great week!