Flying squirrels can sometimes be mistaken for other tree-dwelling species, but they are different in many ways. If you think you may have spotted one in your backyard, or one might be nesting in your garden, it could help to get to know them better. What does a flying squirrel look like, and how do they make their nests?
A flying squirrel is usually 8-12 inches long, with large eyes and a parachute-like membrane from its wrists to its ankles. They have a grey furry coat on top, with darker sides, and a light underbelly with bushy tails. They nest in trees, using fur, features, bark, moss, leaves, or pine needles.
Flying squirrels can be fun on a walk, but they could become destructive when visiting or nesting in your garden or backyard.
As flying squirrels are relentless chewers, you may even lose some of your crops or flowers! Continue reading with us as we describe how you can identify a flying squirrel and their nests.
Where Can Flying Squirrels Be Found?
Flying squirrels reside in both Southern and Northern America. It is challenging to distinguish between the two, although the Northern flying squirrels would generally be larger.
Although flying squirrels could look very similar to other squirrel species, they have much longer limp bones to help them glide efficiently.
They also have wing-like skin between their wrists and ankles, which can be seen when gliding in the air.
Description Of Southern And Northern Flying Squirrels
Southern flying squirrels can be found in the eastern half of North America, from southeastern Florida to Canada, and south as far as Mexica.
They will often live to prefer near wetlands, along streams, and in older forests. They tend to have a greyer coat with a white belly. They measure around 8 to 10 inches.
Northern flying squirrels can be found in Canada and Alaska southward in the west to northern Colorado and California.
They also reside in the middle of the continent to central Wisconsin and Michigan and the east to northern Tennessee and North Carolina.
Smaller populations of Northern flying squirrels also exist in highly elevated areas in several other parts of the U.S, including the Black Hills, Appalachian Mountains, and Sierra, Nevada.
Northern flying squirrels are larger and usually range between 8 to 12 inches, although many younger ones can often be confused with Southern flying squirrels.
Northern flying squirrels will have darker belly hair with blackish-brown or reddish-brown fur.
Southern and Northern flying squirrels prefer to live in coniferous and mixed forests, as they produce mast, such as hickory, poplar, oak, beech, and maple, with a dense tree canopy.
Flying squirrels will require a large wooded area where the trees are close enough to glide through the air and spend as little time on the ground as possible.
It could be very challenging to tell these two species apart, and DNA would be the only way to know for sure.
However, these two species are not known to interbreed. Northern and Southern flying squirrels have a rodent-like shape, with large concave eyes, a bushy tail, and a furry membrane between their front and back legs, allowing them to glide.
Females and males look similar to each other. They are also nocturnal, meaning they are mainly active at night and rarely seen.
How A Flying Squirrel Makes Its Nest And How To Identify One
When it comes to a flying squirrel’s nesting behavior, they usually have “refugia nests, ” also called shelters or dens. They will use this during the daytime, usually between 8 and 20 feet in cavities with entrance holes measuring between 1 and 2 inches.
If you have a birdbox in your garden or backyard, a flying squirrel may even use this for a nest! In the warmer months, they will make dreys that would not be in cavities.
Although many Southern flying squirrels use pre-made woodpecker holds as their nest sites, they may build a summer nest by gathering twigs, leaves, and bark.
In the winter, 15 or more flying squirrels may nest together for warmth, called aggregate nests.
When they need to build a nest to raise their young, they will usually make the nest by plucking out their fur; these types of nests are referred to as natal nests, and they are generally more voluminous.
The strangest thing about flying squirrels is that they would build a den that is used exclusively for defecation, and it would usually consist of moss, bark, twigs, and other plant-based materials.
Lastly, flying squirrels are also known to build a food cache, where they will make a nest specifically to store their food resources, and this could usually be seen close to winter.
Although flying squirrels do not hibernate, they need to stock up on food resources and allocate a special place for them!
Once a nest becomes flea-ridden or dirty, a flying squirrel will move to a new location and build a new nest, which often results in causing damage to trees.
When winter is approaching, you need to be vigilant, as flying squirrels are known to use the attics of buildings to build their nests.
They only need small holes around vents, eaves, and dormers to build nests; once they have found a way in, it could be next to impossible to get rid of them!
You will have to hire a professional to trap them one by one and remove them safely.
Flying squirrels are cute; if you wander at night, you might even be lucky enough to spot them. However, be sure to take note of their bellies when trying to identify them!
When you think you might have one nesting in your backyard, remember that they could cause some damage, especially if they find their way into your home!
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