Flying squirrels are a nocturnal species with large round eyes that give them superior vision at night. Flying squirrels don’t really fly—they glide by adjusting the tautness of the membrane between their front leg and back leg. The flattened, slightly bushy tail is a tool that helps them slow down just before they land. They are capable of gliding a maximum distance between 80 and 150 feet.
Habits and Habitat
Flying squirrels inhabit communities that have an abundance of trees, so they are able to move around their territory to locate food and avoid predators such as raccoons. Two species of flying squirrels inhabit Maryland: the Southern Flying Squirrel and the Northern Flying Squirrel. Both species look the same measuring between 9 to 14 inches long, with the Southern Flying Squirrel being on the smaller side. Both species have different habits and live in different habitats.
Flying squirrels live in colonies, and the previous year’s young may live in the same nest or den as adults and young from the current year. When flying squirrels are not raising their young, they will shift from nest to nest and will even share their nest with other flying squirrels to stay warm during the cold winter months. Flying squirrels build their nests out of grass, shredded tree bark, moss, feathers, animal fur, tree branches, twigs, leaves, attic insulation and other materials found in an attic, such as clothing. They typically nest between 10 to 35 feet off the ground in tree cavities or in nests built out of leaf litter on the external part of a tree. They will also nest in attics and walls of a house that is surrounded by trees.
Flying squirrels will eat fungi, lichens, mushrooms, hardwood mash, tree sap, insects, carrion, bird eggs, baby birds, buds, flowers, bird seed, and all nuts except walnuts because the shell is too hard for them to crack. Northern Flying Squirrels keep their nest fairly clean and they will not defecate in the nest or bring food to the nest. However, they will defecate and store food in attic areas away from the nest. Flying squirrels will store up to 15,000 nuts in an attic during one season.
Flying squirrels can breed as young as 9 months old. Their breeding season starts in late winter and will continue into late spring. Flying squirrels are pregnant for approximately 40 days, after which they give birth to one litter of 1 to 6 young. Typically in the mid-Atlantic region they have one litter per year. The Southern Flying Squirrels may have 2 liters per year of 2 to 7 young per litter.
Diseases and Parasites
- Typhus – Flying squirrels are susceptible to typhus, however it is rare that the typhus is passed to humans.
- Parasites – Flying Squirrels do carry lice, fleas, and mites.
- Salmonella – Flying Squirrels do carry salmonella in their feces. It is very important to use the proper protection equipment such as rubber gloves when cleaning up flying squirrel feces.
Flying Squirrels or Rats?
It can be difficult to identify that you have a flying squirrel infestation and not a mouse problem or rat problem because the feces look similar to an untrained eye. However, flying squirrels are active mostly at night and you will hear them running around in the attic or in wall cavities. You may hear much more activity during rainy or windy nights or nights because flying squirrels prefer to stay inside in bad weather.
If you have a problem with flying squirrels, contact to schedule an appointment with one of our wildlife control technicians.