Fly-by-night squirrels move in

Maine has two species of Flying Squirrel, Northern and Southern (oddly!). The Southern ones, Glaucomys volans, are smaller, chipmunk-sized, and have white bellies. They are the ones that live around my big hickory tree. They are strictly nocturnal, so I put out a game camera, and got this video:

They build big dreys more than a foot across, and if they can infiltrate they like warm dry attics, like mine. This winter I discovered a large spherical pink mass of insulation in an attic closet, clearly excavated from between my rafters, next to a rolled up camping mattress.

Unfortunately I didn’t think of photographing it before I gently prized it open, to reveal a cavity in the centre:

I carefully removed the top section and turned it over. The whole interior was beautifully lined with dried grass:

Apparently flying squirrels, unlike our other squirrel species, are fastidiously clean, and they never defecate in their nests.

Flying squirrels don’t actually fly, they glide, using flaps of skin that link their wrists to their ankles, and making them almost square in flight! This terrific set of images was made by Stan Tekiela and comes from the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer website. Click to access marapr2019_young_naturalists.pdf

In 2019 the BBC Autumnwatch team brought sophisticated infra-red night cameras to my back yard and filmed the flying squirrels.

Needless to say, they got much better video! The cameraman was Mark Yates and the voiceover is Chris Packham.

Many years ago we found a terrified little flying squirrel in broad daylight in the bathroom. It had got in somehow, and was trapped. We opened the window, closed the door, and left it to escape, which it did. I do so wish I had taken a photo; it remains the only one I have ever seen in daylight.

PS Squirrels in the house can do serious damage. To see what they can do, look at the photo below:

This hole in the floorboards of my shed was gnawed from underneath by a squirrel, mostly likely a red squirrel, while I was away and the shed was closed up, to get at some sunflower seeds inside. The grey thing in the top left is the toe of my boot, for scale. A good thing it wasn’t my kitchen door instead.

3 thoughts on “Fly-by-night squirrels move in”

  1. Flying squirrels destroyed my attic with their urine and feces as they overwintered three years ago. They were definitely NOT fastidious. With time and many $ we now have a lovely third floor space, but this does not warrant giving them any recognition.


  2. That sounds awful for you. I too do not want them as permanent housemates, so I got in the experts to exclude them. They told me that flying squirrels defecate out of the nest, not necessarily out of the house, as you discovered to your cost.


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