southern flying squirrels: the next frontier?

There has been a lot of talk lately in the squirrel lab about flying squirrels are.  These discussions, perhaps by accident, perhaps not, have coincided with two southern flying squirrels taking up residence in my attic.  After far too long, I trapped them out this week and translocated them.  This gave me (and the students, and my kids!) a rare opportunity to look closely at one, alive (yes, my 4.5 year old daughter asked if we could keep it as a pet, and yes I was rather tempted).  A few things struck me.  First, they have smaller than expected feet.  Given their gliding, and need to grab on to branches, I would have expected them to have bigger feet relative to their body size (as compared to grey squirrels).  Second, their whiskers are insanely long!  I swear the squirrel that I caught today had at least 2.5 inch whiskers. Third, their poop is far smaller than I would have expected (see picture)–only slightly, if at all, longer than deer mice.

 

Inspired by these catches, I have done a little extra natural history reading on them.  Two particularly cool things to report.  First, in the winter they can den with up to 20 other individuals.  That’s right, 20!  Anyone who has had to remove a squirrel from their house should be shivering right now…. oh my!  I really hope there are not 18 more in my attic.  Second, they have been observed foraging in nights with temperatures as low as -30F.  These are tiny animals.  They must be incredibly efficient foragers to be out in those conditions.

Southern flying squirrel poop

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