Zoos keep wild animals in captivity to entertain and educate the public.
While some create environments that imitate the animal’s natural habitat, sadly, others don’t provide proper living conditions for their captives. For example, flying squirrels may be kept by zoos or private owners – but how does this impact their lifespan? Does life in confinement differ from survival in nature?
Flying squirrels live about three to five years in the wild. They can live for about ten years in captivity. In the wild, they are vulnerable to many predators and must find food. Flying squirrels in captivity must have their social needs met to ensure their quality of life is good.
People are motivated to keep many wild animals as pets. However, in many cases, this is a complicated endeavor requiring careful management.
Do Flying Squirrels Live Longer In Captivity?
Flying squirrels generally live for about ten years in captivity. There has been one instance when a flying squirrel lived for twenty-eight years, but this is rare.
The average life span of flying squirrels in the wild is four to five years. Their life span in the wild is less than half that of flying squirrels in captivity.
Why do Flying Squirrels Live Longer In Captivity?
Flying squirrels in the wild are a mammal that serves as a food source for various predators. This fact means that if the squirrels become slower or less agile, predators will easily catch and eat them.
Flying squirrels stop reproducing at three years, indicating that a squirrel of this age is considered old. Older squirrels may be prone to arthritic changes and unable to complete the gliding and rapid maneuvers necessary to evade capture.
In captivity, flying squirrels are protected from predators. They do not need to glide, climb and move quickly, which spares their joints and makes arthritis less likely to occur at three or four years.
If the flying squirrels move slower as they age, there are no predators to catch them.
Flying squirrels in the wild must survive harsh winters when food resources become scarce. In captivity, they usually have a warm, snug cage or den. As a result, their bodies are less stressed than if they have to endure frigid temperatures.
Food is freely available in captivity, and flying squirrels do not face the risks wild squirrels must face to obtain food. In addition, the food supply for captive flying squirrels is constant throughout the seasons.
Wild flying squirrels mate once or twice a year. Female flying squirrels, therefore, have a high toll on their bodies. Pregnancy and lactation require a lot of energy and can significantly alter the strength and laxity of muscles and ligaments.
Pregnancy and lactation will deplete vitamins and minerals stored in female flying squirrels. The nutrients may not be sufficiently replenished if there is a food shortage.
Male flying squirrels compete for a female’s attention during mating season and will mate with as many squirrels as possible.
The males challenge each other, kicking out viciously. Male flying squirrels may get hurt or fall from a tree branch during these rituals, causing the death of that squirrel.
Although the male squirrel’s energy requirements are not as high as females, more energy is still used during mating season. Therefore, increased sexual activity may reduce the life span of male flying squirrels.
What Are The Social Needs Of Flying Squirrels In Captivity?
Flying squirrels are social animals that live in family groups in the wild. Twenty or more squirrels may congregate in one nest during winter, and five or six squirrels may be found in a single nest during summer.
Flying squirrels have a complex communication system. They communicate with each other regarding food sources, predators, and other issues.
When you keep an animal in captivity, it still retains its wild relatives’ basic needs. For example, flying squirrels need companions if kept in a domesticated situation.
Many times, the social needs of animals are overlooked. Unfortunately, this lack of companionship stresses the flying squirrels and reduces their quality of life.
Flying Squirrels Need To Gnaw When In Captivity
Flying squirrels are rodents with continually growing incisors that are worn down naturally in the wild. When kept in captivity, the squirrel must be given sufficient opportunity to gnaw on hard plant materials.
If flying squirrels have nothing to gnaw on, they become destructive, chewing the bars of their cages or other items in the house if they have free access to the home. They may also develop severe dental issues, which are painful and can ultimately kill the squirrel.
Do Flying Squirrels Bite?
Flying squirrels are not domesticated animals. They are capable of giving a sharp bite to people. Biting may commonly be a problem in stressed flying squirrels with no companions.
Can You Get Diseases From A Flying Squirrel?
Flying squirrels can be infected with typhus and transmit this deadly disease to humans. It is possible to treat typhus, but it must be timeously diagnosed and treated with the correct antibiotic.
Should I Keep a Flying Squirrel As A Pet?
Keeping flying squirrels as pets is not generally a good idea. This is because they have specific social and dietary needs that must be met to live healthy, quality lives.
Keeping a social animal, such as a flying squirrel, in isolation is cruel and creates unnecessary stress. In addition, flying squirrels kept in solitary states often develop abnormal behaviors.
Due to their social nature, flying squirrels bond closely with their owners.
When left alone for even a few hours, it may become depressed and unsettled and likely begin showing destructive or aggressive behavior.
It is illegal to keep flying squirrels in ten states in the USA. Flying squirrels are often caught in the wild and are becoming exploited in the pet industry.
What Should I Do If A Baby Flying Squirrel Needs Help?
If you find an injured or baby flying squirrel that needs help, it is best to contact a squirrel rescue society. These groups are well-equipped to deal with flying squirrels and aim to release them back into the wild.
A quick internet search will show which squirrel rescue is closest to you.
If you can’t find one, contact any veterinarian who will be able to help you.
Flying squirrels live almost twice as long in captivity as in the wild. However, meeting their social and dietary needs is essential if they are kept in captivity. They are demanding pets and are being exploited by the pet industry.
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