For those who enjoy celebrating obscure and slightly silly holidays: 21 January is Squirrel Appreciation Day. Cook Forest has a fair number of squirrels — including chipmunks, which are ground squirrels — but the squirrels of the year at CFC are the southern flying squirrels:
These fellows are tiny (~ 2 oz), nocturnal (look at those eyes!), and fearless leapers – flying squirrels glide, rather than fly, using the furred membranes between their front and rear legs on each side, called the patagium. Though they primarily leap among trees in a stand, they’ve been recorded gliding as far as 295 feet, which is nearly 98.5 yards, which is nearly a football field’s length – and they do it at speeds between 10 and 30 mph.
They’re predominately active at night and spend very little time on the ground, so many folks never see these fellows. Despite a small disparity in size and coloration, it’s quite difficult to tell the southern from the northern flying squirrel, which is endangered in Pennsylvania. Since the Cook Forest flying squirrels had pups (or “kits”) in the autumn, we know they’re the southern variety, as only the southern squirrel has two small litters annually. Sugar gliders look similar, but are a different animal altogether.
Flying squirrels are among the only communal squirrels – as many as 30 have been found living in a single drey, since the’re so small they need to nest together to share body heat. Flying squirrels don’t hibernate, but they often become less active during colder weather.
Fun fact: if you find a nest in your attic, you’ve got a “scurry of squirrels!” Lucky you!
Some of us are in the same boat:
This is not his natural or his normal habitat, but he and his siblings won’t be evicted into custom-built three-tier tree-hung condos until spring. If you’ve got a similar problem, please contact the CFC and we’ll happily share any advice or information.