Flying Squirrels

Here’s an unusual photo by Dave Bonta:
Flying Squirrel by Dave Bonta
It’s unusual because Flying Squirrels are generally nocturnal… in fact they are the only nocturnal squirrel here in Western New York.

The ranges of two species of Flying Squirrel overlap  in the northeast USA.  The Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomus sabrinus) is slightly larger than the Southern Flying Squirrel (G. volans).  If you sandwich the Eastern Chipmunk between them, you have our 3 smallest squirrels in order of size with the Southern Flying Squirrel being the smallest.

Both species are omnivorous.  Both will build twig-leaf nests, though they prefer tree cavities.  Neither hibernates, and neither truly flies.  Glides are achieved through the aid of the patagium, a fold of skin that stretches from wrist to ankle and is supported by a bit of cartiledge that extends the skin slightly beyond the foot.  This skin essentially turns the squirrel into a kite that can glide great distances compared to its body size.  The average glide of a Northern Squirrel is 66 feet, and that of the Southern 20-30 feet.

Based on where Dave lives and the apparent size of the squirrel in his picture above, I would guess it is the southern species, though I can’t be sure.  Here’s one from Sue in northern Ontario that I would guess is the northern species:
Flying Squirrel by Sue Nature Photonutt

If we could tickle their bellies, we would find the hairs on the Southern to be all white, while those on the northern are darker at the base and light at the tips.

Flying Squirrel Range MapNorthern
Total Length
:  10-12  inches
Tail Length:  4-6 inches
Weight: 2.5-4.5 ounces
Average Lifespan:  3-4 years

Southern
Total Length
: 9-10 inches
Tail Length:  3-4.5 inches
Weight:  2-3 ounces
Average Lifespan:  5 years

That’s the end of my squirrel series… Hope you enjoyed it!  Should I give you a quiz now?

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12 thoughts on “Flying Squirrels

  1. I have never seen a flying squirrel! But I’m not a night owl, either. Great shots. Have some homeschooling friends that need to visit your blog each day! I’ll pass you along.

  2. I did see one once at a relative’s house in the country outside Erie. It was night and we opened the door to leave and it “flew” from the tree just outside the house to somewhere across the yard. We thought it was a flying squirrel then decided it had to be something else because it was night. Learning it is nocturnal, I’m now sure it was a flying squirrel. Thanks for the great post!

  3. It is almost certainly the southern. The northern is virtually extinct here, persisting only in a few plces in NE and NW Pennsylvania. This is thought to be in part because its habitat requirements are a little more particular – more of a conifer element, more old-growthy – and in part because habitat fragmentation has brought it into close proximity with the more generalist southerns, who carry a disease fatal to the northerns. (When I say “proximity,” I mean they sometimes share dens.)

  4. I enjoyed your squirrel series very much. We had some flying squirrels visit our “squirrel-proof” bird feeder for several weeks last summer. They were so busy eating seed that they didn’t care about me at all. I was able to get really close to them and take lots of close-up photos. Annoying as they were, I really enjoyed having them around and being able to see them so close-up!

  5. Thank goodness I found you. With your help I am able to show my family that I am not crazy and that there is indeed a flying squirrel population in my yard outside of Batavia New York. Thank you for the piece of mind

  6. Hi,
    One morning about nine, had a squirrel race past me and up a norway spruce tree. Nothing unusual, but that it had the three colored mid body horizontal stripes, that I always see on much smaller chipmonks everywhere. I havent been able to find any similar photo, on google images and when I saw this message board, hoped somebody may know the name of such a critter.
    thanks,
    Bill

  7. well i just recently found my dog gnawing on my speakers trying to get at something. It was indeed a juvenile flying squirrel that got trapped in our house here in the city of Jamestown it was hiding between the speakers and the wall very flat. I’m certain that it is the source of the noise that was coming from the ceiling for the past few months. It was a really neat looking squirrel, with its flat tail. Too bad my dog found it before we did because i had to pull it out of her mouth to find out what it was.

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