Flying squirrels are miniature gliding squirrels.
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
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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