Every time you look up, another species is becoming endangered in the modern world, where cities expand, taking over natural wild habitats. This is distressing and troublesome. People often mention that they do not see many southern flying squirrels and may feel concerned about their survival. Therefore, it is critical to know whether the southern flying squirrel is endangered and if it needs protection.
The Southern flying squirrel is not an endangered species at the time of this writing. However, they are on the CITES list of ‘least concerned species.’ In many areas, they are more common than grey squirrels. Southern flying squirrels breed two litters a year and have a large litter size. People often miss them because they are nocturnal.
Southern flying squirrels are entertaining little mammals and are ecologically important. The status of the species must be maintained to allow them to play their role in the ecosystem.
Are Southern Flying Squirrel Populations Endangered?
Southern flying squirrels exist over an extensive range in the eastern half of the United States.
Their numbers vary in different regions. But this is a natural response to the environment and its suitability for the squirrels.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and CITES list southern flying squirrels as a ‘species of least concern.’
In some regions of the United States, southern flying squirrels are more common than grey squirrels.
How Do Southern Flying Squirrels Maintain Their Numbers?
Southern flying squirrels only live for four or five years in the wild, so it may be confusing to understand how they maintain their numbers.
Southern flying squirrel females usually produce two litters each year in spring and summer. Their litter size varies from one to six babies, but four or five are not uncommon for a southern flying squirrel pregnancy.
Southern flying squirrels prefer to live further away from people, but they are adaptable little creatures. If a suburban environment has sufficient trees, southern grey squirrels will inhabit the area.
In many regions, southern flying squirrels must learn to live among people due to the destruction of their natural habitats.
Southern flying squirrels have been known to move into the roofs of people’s houses if necessary, although this usually makes them unpopular.
The Biggest Predator Threat To Southern Flying Squirrels?
A predator which is becoming a significant threat to southern flying squirrels is the domestic cat. As the squirrels are forced to live closer to humans, domestic cats are preying on the squirrels and taking a toll on the population.
In some regions, it is thought that the numbers of southern flying squirrels may be lowering because of predation by domestic cats. Although southern flying squirrels are not currently endangered, they may become vulnerable if cat predation occurs at a high rate.
Owls are a natural predator that commonly hunts southern flying squirrels. Owls only hunt to feed themselves and their offspring. They never kill without a purpose and therefore do not threaten flying squirrel populations.
Are People A Threat To Southern Flying Squirrels?
People constitute a threat to southern flying squirrels on several fronts. First, as the human population increases, there is more demand for housing and food. Both agriculture and the construction of homes result in deforestation.
People do not always consider wildlife, including flying squirrels, when choosing plants for their gardens. As a result, they may remove trees beneficial for squirrels and replace them with ornamental plants that do not supply food and may even be toxic to the squirrels.
Southern flying squirrels are arboreal and rely on trees for food, nesting, and the ability to travel easily. Researchers have also noted that southern flying squirrels avoid newly planted trees and saplings and prefer to travel and live in belts of older forests.
One of the reasons for the southern flying squirrel’s preference for older trees is that there are cavities and crevices that the squirrels can use for nesting. It is also easier for them to camouflage themselves and avoid predators in older trees.
The destruction of an animal species’ habitat is always a problem as it forces them into contact with people and restricts food resources.
When southern flying squirrels live alongside people, they make the most of the environment, and many find that the roofs of houses make ideal, safe nesting sites.
Southern flying squirrels are rodents with continually growing incisors. Their natural instinct is to gnaw to control the growth of their teeth. This is not an issue in the wild as their natural hunt for food wears down their teeth.
When southern flying squirrels take up residence in a roof, they continue their natural behavior, searching for food in any wood or surfaces they find. Unfortunately, this results in them chewing up roof rafters, cement, and plaster on walls.
The home’s destruction makes human inhabitants understandably furious, and they want to get rid of the squirrels. As a result, some turn to poisons or pest removal companies that use unethical practices.
Although it is frustrating to have southern flying squirrels damaging your home, it is kinder to the squirrels and the environment to choose ethical means of removing the squirrels. The squirrels should preferably be trapped and relocated.
Sealing all holes and crevices in the building will help to deter southern flying squirrels from making their homes in buildings.
The Ecological Role Of Southern Flying Squirrels
Southern flying squirrels are of considerable ecological importance, emphasizing the need to maintain good population numbers.
Flying squirrels eat berries, nuts, and mushrooms. Therefore, they are critical in dispersing seeds, nuts, and fungi spores, allowing these plants to germinate and grow in different regions.
Like most other squirrels, southern flying squirrels bury nuts and seeds for later consumption. However, some of these seeds and nuts germinate and grow, further aiding dispersal and ensuring the survival of plant species.
Southern flying squirrels also eat wood-burrowing insects which may help to protect plants from insect damage. In addition, they eat tree buds which ironically stimulate further tree growth.
For the most part, the Southern flying squirrel is not endangered in the United States. However, in some regions of Central America, the species is rare.
All squirrels, regardless of species, face minor threats from deforestation and habitat loss. Domestic cats are a considerable threat, but the southern flying squirrel populations are stable at this stage.
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