Southern Flying Squirrel

Southern Flying Squirrel: (Glaucomys volans)

Southern flying squirrels (glaucomys volans), also called flying squirrels are members of the sciuridae family.  flying squirrels average between 8 to 10 inches long. They have flat and board tails that are between 3 to 3.5 inches long.

Southern flying squirrels color patterns consist of a buff brown to grayish color. Its under - parts are white. Their eyes are large and black. They also have a loose fold of skin running along each side from its wrist to its ankle, called a patagium. When they extend their feet the patagium allows them to glide from tree to tree.

Southern flying squirrels are native to and are found throughout North America, including Florida, however you will not find them in the Keys. They inhibit areas that are heavily wooded with trees, oak hammocks and pine oak woodlands, as well as hickory, beech, and maple trees. This also includes residential areas that have or are near wooded areas.

Southern flying squirrels are omnivores, meaning they consume both plant and animals. Consuming a variety of acorns, hickory nuts, pecans, berries, fruit, seeds and buds, insects, birds eggs and nestlings, lichens, fungi, mushrooms and some carrion (dead animals). 

Southern flying squirrels are the only nocturnal members of the squirrel family in North America. Sometimes they can be seen gliding from tree to tree on bright moonlit nights. They are not capable of flying, instead they glide giving the appearance of flying. They are able to glide because of their patagium, the loose flap of skin that is attached from its wrist to its angles. When the squirrel begins to launch itself from a tree it extends its legs out to its side, stretching the patagium out, producing a board gliding surface. Cartilage and muscles that are in the patagium strengthen the edges allowing control and shape while gliding, also using its flat tail as a stabilizer. While gliding they can do 90 degree turns and lateral loops, usually gliding 20 to 50 feet, but they can glide up to 160 feet. They mainly nest in natural cavities and woodpecker holes, building nests out leaves and twigs. These nests are used for refuge or resting. Flying squirrels main occupy them during the summer. They will also build nests in the top of trees, nest boxes, or attics. Southern flying squirrels are very sociable and are foraging and gliding in large groups. Their home ranges vary in size, estimating the average territorial size to be around 2.45 hectares that significantly over - laps other flying squirrels territories with the males territory larger than the females territories. The male ranges tend to have more of a food supply and the females tend to have more nesting sites. Flying squirrels do not hibernate during the winter, instead they roost with 24 or more individuals, reducing their metabolic rate and body temperatures conserving their energy.    

Southern flying squirrels can produce 2 litters a year, which usually occurs between January and February, averaging 2 to 7 young each litter. Their gestational period is approximately 40 days long. When the young are born they are blind, fur - less, deaf and helpless. Their eyes begin to open around 24 to 30 days. Their ears begin to open around 2 to 6 days and their fur begins to grow at day 7. The parents leave the young when they are 65 days old, even though the young are not completely independent until they are 120 days old.

Southern flying squirrels are known to carry diseases such as the epidemic typhus, known as sylvatic typhus. It also acts as a host to the rickettsia prowazekii bacteria and transmission to humans is believed to happen through lice or fleas.

Southern flying squirrels cause damage to plants, trees ornamentals as well as plastic items such as piping, electrical wiring insulation, wood siding on homes or building because of their desire to chew objects.

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