Published on February 8, 2013 by Amy
The so-called Flying Squirrels do not actually fly, but glide by means of a furred, sheetlike membrane along the sides of the body between the fore and hind limbs. Only two species occur in North America: the Southern Flying Squirrel is found in extreme southeastern Canada, the eastern half of the United States, Mexico, and Central America. The Northern Flying Squirrel is found mainly in Canada, Alaska, and the western and northern parts of the conterminous United States.
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Flying Squirrels are nocturnal animals, becoming active only after dark. They eat a variety of different foods such as berries, fruits, acorns, and nuts. They will also feed on animal matter such as insects, nesting birds and eggs, and the flesh of dead animals. Like other squirrels, flying squirrels often store food for the winter months.
Flying squirrels nest primarily in tree cavities, especially abandoned woodpecker holes, but may also construct summer nests of leaves, twigs, and bark. During the winter, many Flying Squirrels will often den together.
Breeding takes place in January and February and again in June and July. Litters usually range from 1 to 6 individuals with 2 to 3 being the average. The young are born blind and hairless with their eyes and ears closed. By four weeks of age, the young are covered with hair and their eyes are open. They are weaned by six weeks of age but remain with their mother until the next litter is born.
Southern Flying Squirrels are found primarily in mature hardwoods and mixed conifer-hardwood forests, especially those with old growth trees which produce abundant food and plenty of cavities for nesting and denning.
Southern Flying Squirrels are abundant throughout their range and are adaptable animals, often living close to human residences. If there is a lack of suitable natural denning sites, flying squirrels will often take up residence in attics or abandoned buildings, especially during the winter months. They are easily attracted to nesting boxes and can often be found feeding from bird feeders at night. They can often be approached quite closely and are easily observed at bird feeders as long as you move slowly and quietly. Flying squirrels are sometimes kept as pets, a practice that is illegal without special captive permits.