Flying Squirrels


Flying squirrels are miniature gliding squirrels.
Flying Squirrel

Glaucomys Volans, the Southern Flying Squirrel, is found in the Southern and Eastern United States. If you live in those areas, a flying squirrel family may be nesting in a tree nearby to your home as you read this very sentence. You will probably never see them in the wild because they are nocturnal and shy. They nest in tree hollows and nooks and crannies of branches.

A southern flying squirrel is about 3-4 inches long from head to vent and weighs under 3 ounces. It has a gliding membrane that extends from the outside digit on the front paw to the outside digit on the rear paw. It is rust-brown color with cream under parts. The fur is soft, fine and thick. The eyes are large and dark brown or black. Females are a bit larger than males. Their dentition is i1/1, c0/0, p1/1, m3/3 x 2 for a total of 20 teeth.

Breeding pairs should be provided with two nest boxes. The female and male will stay together until just before she births. A few days prior to birth, she will take up housekeeping in the vacant nest. Gestation is about 42 days and babies number 3 or 4 although larger litters have been recorded. Babies are born with eyes closed, and hairless. They have the gliding membranes from birth. They open their eyes about 4 weeks of age and are weaned at 8 weeks. Flying squirrels will breed up to twice a year in the wild and three times a year in captivity if temperature and feed conditions are optimum. In the wild they have variable peak periods of mating and birth corresponding with climate and location.

Flying squirrels are capable of gliding 150 feet. They can only glide down. Flying squirrels are very long lived in captivity - up to 12 years. They will store food in their nest in great quantities. The females can become territorial and will guard their nest from all other squirrels.

They should be kept in wire cages made of ½" x 1" mesh. Hang a nest box on the side of the cage and provide them with bedding materials such as grass hay, leaves and short staple cotton batting. Use ¼" mesh on the floor of the case to prevent loss of babies and spilled food. They can also be kept in 10 gallon aquariums. We have tried colony breeding in a large enclosure with a large group of animals but have not been successful. Even if you provide many nests, they pile up in one or two nests and often smother each other. Out best luck was in a plastic pet carrier, with wire lining. Plastic crates are not a deterrent to their very capable teeth and they will soon be out and in trouble. Provide them with gnawing materials such as twigs, branches, lichen, hard shelled nuts and seeds. They need branches to crawl upon and a few hanging ropes or cords are a good source for exercise. I use perforated PVC sewer pipe capped on the bottom for a nest box. I drill a 2" diameter hole in the middle of one side (opposite the perforations) with a hole saw (one used to drill hole in doors for door knobs). I drill a small hole at the top of the pipe 25% around from the door hole and hang the pipe with a small "s" hook. The top of the pipe is not capped to provide proper ventilation and easy visual access for me. Shredded paper or shavings can be used for bedding. A couple pieces of crumpled paper in the bottom of the cage will be shredded by them. They also like cotton batting.

Warning: Flying squirrels can cause damage to anything they get their rodent teeth on. I know of one lady whose (untame) flying squirrels got up into the vent and in her attic and destroyed wiring and insulation. Be very careful when letting them loose and keep a very vigilant eye on them every second.

In the wild, they eat pecans, hickory nuts, walnuts, buds, acorns, wheat, corn, sunflower seed, and what ever fruits and insects they may find. In captivity, I feed the tropical mixture, peanuts, rodent block, plus apple and other fresh fruits. Occasionally supplement with dog food and mealworms. It is necessary that they have a calcium supplement of some form. Feed: I use the following mixture free-feed: 30% sunflower seeds or parrot mix (no small seeds as they simply waste them), 20% each trail mix (dried fruits and nuts), shredded coconut, and dry cat food and 10% peanuts. I give them (per pair) few pieces of rodent block, 1/8 orange and 1/8 apple and Bil-Jac® 2 to 3 times a week. I give them Nekton Lori( (2 tsp.) 2 to 3 times a week. Add dicalcium phosphate to all diets. Offer a handful of alfalfa hay every few days. Purina Mazuri( Rodent Pellets are a staple for their diet. They need about 23% protein, 6% fat and 4% fiber. Each squirrel will eat about 5-10 grams of rodent pellets a day.

The young can be raised on Esbilac( or KMR(. Leave with the mother if possible, but if it is necessary to raise a youngster, use a plastic eyedropper because a glass dropper can be broken by their strong teeth. Feed every four hours, eventually increasing the amounts, and reducing the times between feedings.

Babies should be handled from 2 weeks of age for a few minutes a day. As they get older, put them in your shirt pocket for an hour or two. Soon they will bond to you and will eventually go inside your shirt and stay there as long as you will let them. They make captivating pets.

If you have pet flying squirrels, be sure there is no deep water available such as a bucket, or sink full of water. Be sure to close the toilet lid or you may have a drowned squirrel.


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