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What is a Flying Squirrel? Can they really fly?

Flying squirrels are small rodents that are adapted to living on trees. There are over 50 species of flying squirrels, but only 2 species are native to North America; the northern flying squirrel and the southern flying squirrel. The Northern flying squirrels are rarer and randomly distributed, while the southern flying squirrels are found throughout the eastern United States.

Flying Squirrel

What Do Flying Squirrels Look Like?

Flying squirrels are small rodents that measure about 10 inches long from head to tail. They have slender bodies with long limbs, large black eyes, and 22 string teeth for crushing nuts. Another characteristic of these small animals is their long fluffy tail that curves upwards, and their soft, silky fur. Flying squirrels will often have thick brown to glossy grayish or olive green fur and white underbellies.

Can They Really fly?

Flying squirrels do not actually fly. They do not have wings with features, and are not able to soar high up in the sky like birds and bats. Instead, they are only able to smoothly glide from one branch to another or from tree to tree, either in search of food or to escape predators. Even without wings, flying squirrels are known to soar up to 150 to 500 feet. They are well-adapted to life on trees, and have a special that helps them efficiently glide from tree to tree. This special feature is called a patagium.

The patagium is a furry membrane that stretches between the fore and hind limbs, it connects their wrists to the ankles and acts as a parachute to enable flying squirrels to glide smoothly. With the patagium, flying squirrels are also able to change direction in midair and make some dramatic turns to avoid birds of prey. Flying squirrels direct their movement by moving their hands and feet in different directions, while their long bushy tail also contributes to maintaining stability.

Can flying squirrels infest homes?

Flying squirrels are adapted to living in trees, but they can become pests when they take up residence in the attic, roof, or chimney, and they can cause a lot of damage if they do. These rodents have very strong teeth, and they love to chew. Flying squirrels in your property will chew through electrical wires, insulation, wall boards, floor boards, soffits, etc. They will also leave filthy droppings and smelly urine stains that can cause damages. Flying squirrels are also omnivores that eat up fruits, seeds, vegetables and cause damage to gardens. Check for more info on squirrel removal and control.

What diseases do flying squirrels carry?

Rabies is the most common disease associated with wildlife, however, flying squirrels are not known to transmit the virus. Instead, they have been known to carry the bacterium Rickettsia prowazekii, which is responsible for Sylvatic typhus (ST). Sylvatic typhus is an infectious disease associated with close contact with flying squirrels or their nest.

This disease is usually serious, with symptoms manifesting 1 to 2 weeks after infection. In the United States, the first case of Sylvatic typhus to be recognized was in 1976, and symptoms of the disease include; fever, chills, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, painful rash, confusion, and sensitivity of the eyes to light.

These symptoms can be very severe without urgent treatment, but patients usually make full recovery with proper treatment. If you want to know more about diseases that flying squirrels carry, visit to learn about diseases that are caused by squirrels.

How to prevent flying squirrels

You can prevent flying squirrels by taking proactive steps. First, make sure that you seal all holes, cracks, and potential entry points for flying squirrels, and animals in general, around your home. Also, make sure that there are no cracks or crevices around doors and windows. Take extra care to keep your yard clean, trim shrubs and tree branches often.

Frequently clean out the yard to remove dead branches, also harvest mature or ripe fruits promptly. Keep seeds, nuts, bird feeders, and pet food away because they can attract flying squirrels. Remember that flying squirrels are omnivores and eat a wide range of things, the goal is to make sure that there are no food sources or potential hideouts for them.

Lastly, if you already have a problem with flying squirrels on your property, get help from professionals.

Categories: LifePets & Animals