The southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) is a species of squirrel that are capable of flight as they glide along from one tree to another. These squirrels are one of the three species of flying squirrels that occur in North America as they occur in abundance in the Eastern part of the United States with their larger relative, the Northern flying squirrel.
These squirrels are usually found living in groups and spend winters together but do not hibernate. They are extremely territorial during breeding season as the females are attentive mothers and will protect their young ones against predators that are way larger than them and find ways to chase them away. Southern flying squirrels are omnivorous in nature and thrive on a diet of nuts, fungi, insects, and other seeds and berries.
Southern squirrels are also great pets because of their playful and curious nature and can be found with breeders and exotic pet stores.
What type of animal is a southern flying squirrel?
Southern flying squirrels are one of the three species of flying squirrel native to North America that belong to the Glaucomys genus including the Northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) and the Humboldt's flying squirrel (Glaucomys oregonensis). These squirrels, as their names suggest, are famous for flying, but in reality, they glide and do not actually fly.
What class of animal does a southern flying squirrel belong to?
The southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) belongs to the Mammalia class of animals. Having mammary glands to feed their young ones, the presence of the three ear bones, fur or hair, and the neocortex (region of the brain) are what qualifies these squirrels as mammals.
How many southern flying squirrels are there in the world?
Due to the abundance of the southern flying squirrel found in the Eastern parts as well as some of the northern parts of North America, it can be said that the population of these southern flying squirrels is vast and large. Unfortunately, due to a data deficiency, the exact population count of this squirrel species is tough to state.
Where does a southern flying squirrel live?
Southern flying squirrels usually occur in climates that are temperate to sub-temperate and live in deciduous and coniferous forests and large woodlands. Since these species have a wide range of habitats, these squirrels have not confined themselves to just the deciduous forests as they also inhabit oak-hickory trees and poplar and deciduous forests. Nesting sites depend on the availability of good food sources with a favorable climate. These squirrel species make their homes in woodpecker holes, tree cavities, nest boxes left by humans, and nests of birds and other squirrel species that have abandoned them.
These flying squirrels are found at an elevation less than 984 ft (300 m). These squirrels have nests in tall trees and go out foraging at night as these species of flying squirrels are nocturnal in nature.
What is a southern flying squirrel's habitat?
This species of squirrels are found in the Eastern parts of the United States, from Maine south to Florida and from Minnesota south to Texas. They are also found in the mountain forests of Canada though not in abundance.
Who do southern flying squirrels live with?
Both the southern flying squirrels and the northern flying squirrels are social animals and live in groups. In the winter season, these squirrels live and nest together with their offspring. A congregation is also seen during the mating season. As many as 20 squirrels can be found cooped up in a nest!
These flying squirrels spend weeks together in their habitat range, foraging food sources like seeds and nuts from the ground and store them in the cavities and woodpecker holes in trees.
How long does a southern flying squirrel live?
Southern flying squirrels have a recorded average lifespan of three to five years in the wild. However, in captivity, with a proper diet and no threats from natural predators like hawks and snakes, their lifespan increases to 10 years. The oldest recorded flying squirrel in captivity was 19 years old!
How do they reproduce?
The sexual maturity of the southern flying squirrels is different for both the male and the female. Males mature sexually when they are 11 months of age and females at six to eight months of age.
Southern flying squirrels mate two times during a year and this mating period lasts from the month of February until the end of March and then again in late May until the end of July. Females, when fertile, become the center of attention of the males as they gather around her and fight for the chance to mate with her. Males will fight each other with rapid kicks and in most cases, females will mate with the male that is the most dominant.
After mating and insemination, the female will go through a gestation period of at least 40 days, and during this gestation period, the male will help her in building nests that use shredded barks or Spanish moss. These species will also make a secondary nest where they bring their offspring to keep them safe from predators.
Females will give birth to an average two to five babies and take care of them as they are attentive mothers and will defend her young ones even if she is outnumbered or is facing a larger foe. Female flying squirrels can breed till the age of three, after which they turn infecund (infertile).
What is their conservation status?
The IUCN Red List has listed these squirrels as a species of Least Concern because of how abundant they are in the Eastern United States region and are by no means rare. Their population has been growing at a stable rate and also due to them being kept as pets in certain parts of the United States and all over the world, breeders have been breeding them and helping in increasing their overall population.
Southern Flying Squirrel Fun Facts
What do southern flying squirrels look like?
The smallest of all tree squirrels, this squirrel has a small body. These squirrels have large eyes that they use to see in the dark as they are nocturnal. Southern flying squirrels sport a silky coat of fur which is grayish-brown in color with an under-belly that is white. They have two loose folds of skin known as the flying membrane or patagium, which is located between their hind legs and front legs. They use this flap as a combination parachute or glider wings that they use in gliding and escaping predators. These gliders can help them in gliding great distances which can range up to 80 yd (73.1 m) in distance. Just before breaking flight, they use the tail as an air brake and change direction or the angle of descent.
How cute are they?
The southern flying squirrel is one of the cutest species of squirrels that are in existence. Their large black eyes and their soft coat of fur along with their ability to glide in the air make them one of the cutest animals that one can own as a pet!
How do they communicate?
Since these squirrels are nocturnal animals they use their large eyes to see in the darkness of the night. They also produce high-pitched squeaks and other chirping sounds to communicate with each other.
How big is a southern flying squirrel?
Southern flying squirrels are one of the smallest species of squirrel and have a maximum body length of 15 in (38.1 cm) with their tails included although their average body length lies between 8-10 in (20.3-25.4 cm). In comparison, the largest species of squirrel, the black giant squirrel has a body length of 31.4-35.4 in (79-90 cm).
How fast can a southern flying squirrel run?
Due to data deficiency, the speed at which these animals run cannot be stated.
How much does a southern flying squirrel weigh?
These flying or gliding squirrels are lightweight and an adult will weigh a maximum of 4 oz (113.3 g).
What are the male and female names of the species?
Males are called bucks and females are called does.
What would you call a baby southern flying squirrel?
There is no single specific name for a baby flying squirrel. In general, young or baby squirrels are known as kits or pups. The young are born naked and helpless and their ears open two to six days after their birth. Young squirrels are weaned by their mothers for a period of six to eight weeks and after this period they will be able to glide.
Young squirrels stay with their mothers until they are about four months of age or until the mother gives birth to the next litter of babies or when the young reach their sexual maturity.
What do they eat?
Southern flying squirrels are omnivorous in nature and have a wide diet that consists of seeds, fungi, bird eggs, hickory nuts, insects, worms, barks, and stems. In captivity, they can be fed a mixture of seeds and hamster mix.
Are they dangerous?
No, they are not dangerous directly, as in, they do not attack humans on sight and are generally docile in nature. However, these animals can be dangerous to humans indirectly as they can carry certain parasites, fungi, and diseases that humans can contract after coming in contact with them in the wild.
Would they make a good pet?
Yes, these animals can be great pets! Before buying one, you should do research about the legality as these animals are illegal to own in parts of the United States. Some of the states where they are illegal are Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, Utah, and California.
Did you know...
A single southern flying squirrel can collect up to 15,000 nuts in a single season!
Base jumpers and skydivers often use special suits that are based on the gliding abilities of the flying squirrels.
In some of their natural habitat range, these gliding or flying squirrels outnumber the common grey squirrel.
The young American flying squirrels learn to glide early and by the eighth week of their life, they can maneuver 90-degree turns and glide off trees easily.
Even though they collect nuts and other food sources and store them for the winter, these squirrels do not hibernate. During the winter, they reduce their metabolic rate and can fluctuate their body temperature as a means to conserve energy.
Out of the 43 known species of flying squirrels, 40 are found in the Asian continent and the rest are found scattered around the other parts of the world.
Are southern flying squirrels endangered?
No, southern flying squirrels are not an endangered species. These squirrels have a large range of habitats and with an abundance of food sources like seeds and nuts they thrive in their natural habitat. Since these squirrels are also used in the pet trade, they often go through breeding by pet breeders which only adds to their stable population.
How to identify southern flying squirrel?
Southern flying squirrels are easy to differentiate from other squirrels as they are smaller in size with a shorter body length and unlike normal squirrels, they have a loose coat of fur or a flying membrane that is easy to spot.
These squirrels can be mistaken for their relatives, the Northern flying squirrels, but even in this case, they can be differentiated from them as southern flying squirrels have a grayish-brown fur coat with a white belly and black rings around their eyes compared to the light brown color, a flat tail and large eyes of the Northern flying squirrels.
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