Mariton: Flying Squirrel Encounter

January 19, 2020

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

I was checking the trails during a still morning with heavy fog recently.  As I walked, a large oak leaf fluttered across the trail at eye level right in front of me.  Just as my brain registered that an oak leaf was out of place, the “leaf” attached to the tree next to me and scurried up the trunk.  It was then that I realized it was a Flying Squirrel.  I watched it dash up the tree and disappear into a woodpecker hole.

A flying squirrel in a bluebird nest box.

Flying squirrels are common in most forests like Mariton.  The problem is that we seldom see them because they are nocturnal.  Most of my Flying Squirrel sightings have occurred while checking nest boxes during the winter.  As I ready the boxes for bluebirds and other species, I sometimes find Flying Squirrels have built their own nest in the box.  They usually poke their huge eyes out of the nest to have a look, before I close the box so they can go back to sleep.  Sometimes I have found nest boxes filled with nuts – a Flying Squirrel’s idea of a grain silo.  It is a shock to open a box and have acorns and hickory nuts spill out like Fibber McGee’s closet.

Installing a Flying Squirrel box. Photo by Barrett Donna. (I’m wearing a safety harness and connected to the bucket.)

Interestingly enough, Barrett just finished building two Flying Squirrel condos, so we put them up.  During the winter Flying Squirrels will often group up in “huddles” to conserve heat.  Our home made “condos” can serve as a place for Flying Squirrels to congregate, or raise a brood when other natural cavities are occupied by other species.

Flying Squirrel condo in place.