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Do Southern Flying Squirrels make Good Pets to Keep?



The Southern Flying Squirrel, scientifically Glaucomys
volans, and otherwise known as the Southern Pygmy Flying
Squirrel or the Assapanick, is found primarily in the
southeastern United States, although their range extends
across much of the USA and parts of Canada and Mexico. They
are very similar to their Northern Flying Squirrel cousins
in Canada but are slightly smaller. There is a fairly large
population of flying squirrels in the United States,
although they are rarely seen in the wild due to their
shyness and preference for nocturnal activity. Flying
Squirrels, however, have been kept as pets in the Americas
since colonial times because if tamed as babies they are
gentle, affectionate and amusing pets that have been known
to live up to fifteen years in captivity.

Southern Flying Squirrels are the smallest of all the tree
squirrel species. The less than three ounce (four hundred
and fifty-four grams) bodies of the adults are four to eight
inches (ten to twenty centimeters) long, with another four
inches (ten cm) of bushy horizontally flat tail, and covered
with a silky coat that is a blend of greyish to chestnut
colored fur with a dense, soft grey undercoat and a light-
colored belly. They have a small, rounded head, prominent
ears, and long whiskers. Their small size, beautiful fur,
huge, black rimmed eyes specialized for night sight, and
ability to "fly" makes them the beauties of the rodent
family.

What distinguishes this species and earns it its common name
are the extended furry skin flaps that spread between their
front and rear ankles, which spread out and allow them to
glide for long distances when the squirrel jumps from a
branch. Flying squirrels reportedly glide up to one hundred
sixty feet (forty-nine meters) or more between the branches
and trees of their habitat, providing them with a startling
means of escape from their predators, such as snakes, hawks
and owls. When gliding, they can "fly" forward three feet
for every foot they fall, using their broad, flat, bushy
tails as a stabalizer/balancer, and probably as a brake when
landing.

Flying squirrels are not generally as noisy as some other
squirrels, but they do have a good vocabulary of high-
pitched squeaks and chirps. Experts say that many of their
sounds are above the frequency range for us humans to hear.
In fact there is some speculation that flying squirrels may
use those high pitched sounds to help them navigate, just as
bats do. But although flying squirrels hear well, they don't
have the specialized ears of bats, so that idea is
questionable.

If you have carefully researched and chosen to have a
Southern Flying Squirrel pet, please buy a captive-bred baby
that is between five and ten weeks old. This way your pet
will be young enough to bond to you, especially if you carry
your baby squirrel in a pouch or pocket close to your body
for a minimum of three hours a day from the beginning. The
squirrel will happily sleep most of the day while you go
about your daily routine, and wake up in the evening to
climb to your shoulder and entertain you.

Another thing that will tightly bond your squirrel to you is
that it won't be fully weaned when you get it, so you will
need to feed it a small bottle of goat's milk three times
per day along with the normal squirrel food you offer.

Buying a captive-bred squirrel will not only help to
preserve the wild colonies but will probably save you some
grief in dealing with the parasites and diseases a wild-
caught squirrel is likely to bring with it, (Including the
louse-born Rickettsia prowazekii typhus that can be carried
by wild flying squirrels and spread to humans.) and it will
have been handled from early babyhood and so be much more
gentle and easier to tame.

Make sure the squirrel you choose appears healthy. The eyes
should be clear and bright, the nose should not be runny, it
shouldn't look too thin, and the coat should be shiny. Make
sure there are no fleas or ticks on the baby too. Don't be
concerned if the squirrel seems shy or tried to go back to
the breeder or its cage. Flying squirrels are naturally shy
until they feel safe with you.

A flying squirrel can live in a squirrel cage such as those sold for
Sugar Gliders, and will eat a pelleted food containing a
variety of dried fruits and grain pellets, buy one that is
sold specifically for squirrels. It will also need a calcium
source such as cuttlebone or sterile antlers or bones, and
branches on which to gnaw. (Squirrels are rodents and so
have the rodent's need to keep the teeth trimmed by
gnawing.) These squirrels will naturally choose a spot or
two in the cage in which to leave their droppings, and have
little or no odor.

Flying Squirrels are very social animals, and if you will
give your pet the time and attention it needs every day, you
will have a delightful, charming and unusual "pocket" pet.
Do remember, however, that Flying Squirrels seriously bond
to their owners, and it may not be easy to acclimate it to
another household if you need to give it up. Consider the
commitment before deciding on a flying squirrel as a pet.
Also consider the fact that a flying squirrel may be
irresistible as prey to cats and even dogs, so be sure that
you will be able to keep your little pet safe.


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Page By: Tippy & Alfred the senior editors at Pet Care Tips

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