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Southern Flying Squirrel

Southern flying squirrel
Scientific classification
Binomial name
Glycomys volans

The Southern Flying Squirrel, Glaucomys volans, is one of two species of the genus Glaucomys, the only flying squirrels found in North America (the other is the Northern Flying Squirrel, G. sabrinus). It is found in eastern North America, from Ohio and Maine in the USA into Mexico.

Southern flying squirrels feed on mast from trees such as red and white oak, hickory and beech. They store food, especially acorns, for winter consumption.

Although the squirrels will make outside nests, especially in pine woods, they prefer to nest in holes in dead hardwood trees. They often use nesting holes communally, especially in winter, when huddling gives them significant energy savings. They readily use artificial nest boxes. They choose holes with smaller entrances than those used by the sympatric Eastern gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis. Sometimes they use holes that have been made by woodpeckers such as the Red-cockaded Woodpecker Picoides borealis; since this is an endangered species, the squirrels are sometimes removed from areas where the woodpeckers nest, though the usefulness of this practice has been disputed. They tend to avoid areas of forest that have been harvested recently. Both in the wild and in captivity they can produce two litters each year, in early spring and mid-summer.

Southern flying squirrels show substantial homing abilities, and can return to their nests if artificially removed to distances of up to a kilometre. Their home ranges may be up to 4 hectares for females and double that for males, tending to be larger at the northern extreme of their range.

In the USA, southern flying squirrels are often successfully kept as pets. Their large eyes and feathery tails make them extremely appealing, and if acquired young they readily accept handling and bond to their owners.