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  The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

Eastern Flying Squirrel
Order Rodentia : Family Sciuridae : Glaucomys volans (Linnaeus)

Eastern Flying Squirrel (Glauomys volans).  Photo by E.P. Walker.Description. A small squirrel with flattened, bushy tail; "flying" membrane connecting front and hind legs; eyes large; upperparts nearly uniform drab or pinkish cinnamon; underparts creamy white; sides often tinged with buff; toes usually strongly marked with white in winter pelage. External measurements average: total length, 225 mm; tail, 100 mm; hind feet, 29 mm. Weight, 41-67 g.

Species distribution mapDistribution in Texas. Known from wooded areas in eastern one-third of state.

Habits. These small, nocturnal squirrels inhabit forested areas where suitable trees are present to afford den sites. In the western parts of their range, suitable habitat is restricted largely to areas along rivers and streams. In other parts of their range, they show preference for hammocks where Spanish moss is abundant. In suitable habitat they may be more abundant than most other squirrels. They are sociable and tend to live together in groups.

Holes in stumps are preferred den sites, but the squirrels will utilize almost any cavity that is dry and large enough. Woodpecker nests are ideal, particularly those of the larger species. When such sites are not available, the squirrels construct outside nests. A clump of Spanish moss is ideal.

They feed on a variety of items, but nuts and acorns are their mainstay. They also eat insect larvae, beetles, young and eggs of birds, persimmon, and cultivated corn. The frequency with which they are caught in traps set for fur animals and baited with meat indicates a decided fondness for flesh. Food is cached in holes in trees or other places for winter use.

There are two breeding seasons, the principal one in late February and March, the other in July. However, it is not known if an individual female participates in both the spring and fall breeding periods. Captive females mate only once annually. Males are in breeding condition from late January to early September. Mating is probably promiscuous because several males will chase a female in heat. The female alone assumes responsibility for rearing the young. The gestation period is about 40 days. At birth the two or three young are blind, nearly naked, and helpless and weigh about 3 g. The membrane between the wrist and ankle is well developed. The eyes open at 26-29 days, and a week later the young begin eating solid foods. At 6 weeks of age they are old enough to fend for themselves. They reach sexual maturity when about a year old.

Flying squirrels do not actually fly, but travel by gliding from one tree to another. This is accomplished by stretching the legs to extend a membrane connecting the front and hind legs. Glides are usually only about 6-9 m in length, but may extend up to 30 m.

Photo credit: E. P. Walker.