Thursday, April 15, 2010

Flying Squirrels Play Baseball?

Play ball! It’s Opening Day at the Diamond! Today Richmond welcomes its new baseball team, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, with a sold-out Diamond! So why Flying Squirrels???
Well, flying squirrels are rather cute! And Virginia boasts 2 species: the Northern Flying Squirrel, whose range includes a few isolated high altitude locations (it is more common in states farther north) and the Southern Flying Squirrel, whose range includes the entire state except its westernmost tip.
Flying squirrels are nocturnal so they are rarely seen by humans. Their eyes are quite large to help them see in the dark. They spend most of their time high up in trees but come to the ground occasionally to hunt for food. Their predators are creatures of the night, including owls, raccoons, weasels, coyotes and domestic cats.
Flying squirrels do not actually fly but glide. Gliding is facilitated by the patagium, a flap of skin between the front and hind legs, which acts as a sort of parachute when the squirrel jumps from a tree. The patagium contains muscles that hold it taut while gliding and keep it close to the body while at rest. The fur on the patagium is short to reduce air flow resistance or drag.
A flying squirrel’s diet includes mast crops (acorns, hickory nuts, pecans, walnuts), seeds, insects, snails, plant buds and flowers, fruit, fungi, tree bark and sap. Flying squirrels are “scatter hoarders,” often stashing small quantities of nuts in tree notches and in shallow digs under leaf litter and logs. Southern Flying Squirrels are also known to store larger quantities of nuts and other “goodies” in "larder cavities."
For shelter, flying squirrels use several types of nests. The most common nest type is the cavity nest, often a natural tree cavity or a tree cavity made and then abandoned by another animal. In summer, flying squirrels often use outside nests called “dreys,” which are usually made of plant material. Aggregate nests are often used in winter. Flying squirrels are the most social of all squirrel species and they do not hibernate; therefore, to keep warm in winter, they will gather in a communal or aggregate nest for warmth. Other nesting sites may include birdhouses, stacked firewood and attics. We had flying squirrels living in our attic for a couple of winters until we figured out how to humanely “evict” them, but that is a story for another day…

Most of this material came from , an excellent source for almost anything you’d like to know about flying squirrels. Information more specific to Virginia can be found at and

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