Flying squirrels vary from 6-12 inches in body length and 4-10 inches in tail length. They have large eyes, prominent ears, and a bushy tail, and are usually found in southern and eastern United States. They are brown on top and white below, with a flat tail that allows them to steer while jumping between tree branches. Contrary to their name, they don't actually fly, but glide from one tree to another. They have a membrane that extends from the wrists on the forelegs to the ankles on the hind legs, enabling them to glide long distances. Unlike other squirrels who have two breeding periods, these squirrels have only one - from January to March. There are mainly two species, the southern and the northern flying squirrel. These species differ in appearance, behavior, and habitat. The southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans) are smaller, more dominant, and aggressive as compared to the northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus), and are usually found in deciduous forests.
These are omnivorous mammals having a basic diet which includes nuts, buds, fruits, grains, fledglings, and bird eggs. In winter, fungi, tree barks, and mushrooms are common foods that they gather and store. In captivity, they should be supplied with a variety of foods to ensure that they get sufficient nutrition. These squirrels feed well on pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, walnuts, acorns, and hickory nuts. These can also be supplemented with a bird seed mix, a variety of fresh veggies like corn and sweet potatoes, and fruits. Mealworms, waxworms, hard-boiled eggs, or chicken can be given to add a bit of protein to their diet.
In the wild, they prefer place of habitation is the woods, as they find all the food and nesting material they require. Normally, they make their home in a hollow tree trunk or in branches near a tree trunk. However, in captivity, you should try constructing a woodland home for your squirrel, or you can use a mesh wire or cage with a removable tray for easy cleaning. You can put twigs, leaves, grass, branches, and barks at the bottom of the homemade squirrel trap to give your pet a homely feeling. Make sure you clean the cage at least once a week to ensure the proper health of your pet.
Social Behavior and Care
Their temperament varies as per their type. Normally, these squirrels are solitary during the summer, but prefer to stay together in large groups during the winter to keep warm. They develop a strong bond with their owner, especially if brought at a young age. Once they get familiar with their owner's body odor, warmth, etc. they develop a sense of security with them and become very loving and affectionate. They like playing, climbing, bonding, and have a natural tendency to rustle around, snuggle up, and sleep in their owner's pocket, and are hence also known as 'pocket pets'.
Their teeth keep growing throughout their lives, so don't forget to provide them with some chewing materials like hard bark and large bones. Like all other animals, these squirrels can also get sick and may show signs of watery eyes, a lame attitude, abscesses, excessive scratching and biting of the skin, unnatural feces, and low weight. By providing them with a nutritious diet and a habitat where they can play and exercise, you can surely reduce the risk of them getting sick.
Flying squirrels are naturally wild animals and are not easily available as pets, so you must check whether it is legal or not in your area to have one. Before you buy one from any breeder, prepare yourself for the commitment of time and care it will require. If you are buying more than one, it's better to have separate cages, as these squirrels are mostly solitary and like their own space. Whether you purchase male or female squirrels, they don't differ much in behavior and usually make great and lovable pets.