Attracting flying squirrels to your backyard can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Flying squirrels are mostly nocturnal animals, so providing adequate shelter and food sources for them is key. The first step in setting up a wildlife habitat that will attract flying squirrels is to plant native trees and shrubs that provide the food sources they need. Trees such as oaks, hickories, walnuts, and maples will provide nuts for the flying squirrels to snack on. Shrubs such as dogwood, sumac, and viburnum are excellent choices too. You should also avoid using pesticides or herbicides in areas where the flying squirrels may be feeding or nesting.
To create suitable shelter for the flying squirrels you’ll need to create a small denning box near their food source. These boxes should be made of wood and have several entrance holes cut out on the sides. If possible, hang these boxes from a tree branch or another elevated location close to their food source.
You may also consider adding bird feeders with seeds that can attract small birds which in turn may bring other small mammals like flying squirrels into your backyard space. Additionally, adding water sources like birdbaths can help attract more wildlife since they can serve as drinking spots for animals who do not drink from ponds or streams nearby. Providing these additional resources is important because it ensures that all wildlife species have access to necessary resources while visiting your yard.
Understanding Flying Squirrel Behavior and Habitat
Distribution and Species of Flying Squirrels
Flying squirrels are found in various parts of North America, including the eastern, western, and southern regions. The following three species of flying squirrels have been inhabiting North America for the last 160 million years:
- Northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)
- Southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans)
- Humboldt’s flying squirrel (Glaucomys oregonensis)
Flying squirrels are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. During the day, they will rest in nests, which can be found in tree cavities or nesting boxes. They are social animals and will often share nests with other flying squirrels.
Diet and Foraging Preferences
Flying squirrels primarily eat nuts, seeds, and fruits. They will also eat insects, eggs, and small animals such as insects and spiders. They are omnivorous, which means they can eat both plants and animals.
Nesting and Breeding Habits
Flying squirrels nest in tree cavities or nesting boxes. They will typically have one to two litters per year, with each litter containing 2-7 young. The young are born blind and hairless and will stay in the nest for several weeks before venturing out on their own.
Creating an Ideal Habitat for Flying Squirrels
Attracting flying squirrels to your backyard requires creating an ideal habitat that provides food, water, and shelter. Here are some tips for creating an ideal habitat for flying squirrels:
Providing Natural Food Sources
Planting native trees and shrubs is an excellent way to provide natural food sources for flying squirrels. Some of the best trees and shrubs for flying squirrels include:
- Oak trees
- Hickory trees
- Maple trees
- Dogwood shrubs
- Serviceberry shrubs
Encouraging insect populations is also an effective way to provide a natural food source for flying squirrels. Insects are an important part of their diet, and providing a habitat for them can help attract flying squirrels to your backyard.
Installing Artificial Food Sources
Bird feeders can be a great way to provide additional food for flying squirrels. Make sure to use squirrel-friendly food, such as sunflower seeds or safflower seeds, to avoid attracting other animals like raccoons or squirrels.
Suet feeders are another option for providing additional nutrition for flying squirrels. Suet is a high-fat food that is great for winter when other food sources may be scarce.
Providing Water Sources
Providing a source of fresh water is essential for attracting flying squirrels to your backyard. Birdbaths or water features can be a great way to provide water. Make sure to keep the water clean and fresh to prevent the spread of disease.
Nesting Options for Flying Squirrels
Nesting is essential for flying squirrels, and providing options for them can help attract them to your backyard. Here are some tips for providing nesting options for flying squirrels:
A. Preserving Natural Nesting Sites
Preserving natural nesting sites is an effective way to provide nesting options for flying squirrels. Dead or dying trees can provide tree cavities that are perfect for nesting. Snags, or standing dead trees, can also provide ideal nesting sites for flying squirrels. By leaving these natural habitats intact, you can create an environment that is conducive to the needs of flying squirrels.
Providing Artificial Nesting Boxes
Artificial nesting boxes can also provide an excellent nesting option for flying squirrels. Here are some tips for providing artificial nesting boxes:
1. Proper Dimensions and Materials
Nesting boxes should be at least 14 inches tall and 8 inches wide, with a 3-inch diameter entrance hole. The box should be made of wood and have a hinged lid for easy cleaning and maintenance.
2. Strategic Placement and Installation
Nesting boxes should be placed at least 10 feet off the ground and secured to the trunk of a tree. They should be installed in areas with a lot of natural food sources and away from areas with a lot of human activity.
3. Ongoing Maintenance and Cleaning
Nesting boxes should be cleaned out regularly to prevent the buildup of debris and parasites. They should also be inspected regularly for signs of damage or wear and tear.
Protecting Flying Squirrels from Predators and Other Threats
Flying squirrels face a variety of threats in the wild, including predators and human activity. Here are some tips for minimizing these threats:
Common Predators and Threats
Some common predators and threats to flying squirrels include:
- Domestic cats and dogs
- Birds of prey, such as owls and hawks
- Raccoons and other mammals
Strategies for Minimizing Threats
Here are some strategies for minimizing threats to flying squirrels:
1. Placing Nesting Boxes out of Reach
Placing nesting boxes out of reach of predators can help minimize threats. This can be done by installing the boxes high up in trees or using predator guards to prevent access.
2. Discouraging Predators with Barriers
Installing barriers, such as fences or netting, can also help discourage predators from accessing nesting sites. Keep in mind that these barriers should be installed in a way that does not harm the flying squirrels.
3. Monitoring the Area for Potential Dangers
Regular monitoring of the area can help identify potential threats and allow for swift action to be taken to protect flying squirrels.
Observing and Enjoying Flying Squirrels in Your Backyard
Observing and enjoying flying squirrels in your backyard can be a fun and rewarding experience. Here are some tips for spotting and identifying flying squirrels:
Tips for Spotting and Identifying Flying Squirrels
Flying squirrels can be difficult to spot, but here are some tips for identifying them:
- Look for their large eyes and a flattened tail, which are unique to flying squirrels.
- Listen for their soft vocalizations, which include chirps and trills.
- Watch for them gliding from tree to tree at night.
Ethical Wildlife Photography and Observation
When observing flying squirrels, it is important to do so ethically. Here are some tips for ethical wildlife photography and observation:
- Respect the flying squirrels’ space and do not disturb them.
- Do not use flash photography, as it can be harmful to their eyes.
- Do not use bait or other methods to lure them closer.
Engaging in Citizen Science Projects
Engaging in citizen science projects, such as the North American Flying Squirrel Project, can also be a great way to learn more about flying squirrels and contribute to conservation efforts.
Frequently Asked Questions about Flying Squirrels
1. Are Flying Squirrels Dangerous to Humans or Property?
Flying squirrels are generally not dangerous to humans or property. They are small and shy animals that prefer to avoid contact with humans. However, like all wild animals, they should be respected and not approached or handled.
2. How Can I Tell if Flying Squirrels are in My Area?
There are a few signs that can indicate the presence of flying squirrels in your area:
- Look for tree cavities or nesting boxes in trees.
- Listen for their vocalizations, which are soft and high-pitched.
- Look for their droppings, which are small and pellet-shaped.
3. Can I Keep a Flying Squirrel as a Pet?
No, it is not legal to keep a flying squirrel as a pet in most states. Flying squirrels are wild animals and require specialized care and diets that most people cannot provide.
4. Can a Flying Squirrel Really Fly?
No, a flying squirrel cannot actually fly. Flying squirrels are gliders rather than flyers, which means they use their patagium (a membrane of skin between their legs and arms) to catch the air and glide from one tree to another. They can extend their limbs out wide while in mid-air, allowing them to steer and change direction while flying. While they do not have the power of flight like birds, flying squirrels can cover long distances by gliding up to 150 meters from tree to tree in a single bound. Their fleshy tails also act as rudders, helping them to maneuver while in flight.
5. What Is a Flying Squirrel’s Favorite Food?
A flying squirrel’s favorite food is usually nuts, fruits, mushrooms, and seeds. They like to feed on hickory nuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, beechnuts, acorns, and chestnuts along with many types of berries such as wild strawberries and raspberries. Flying squirrels also enjoy fungi such as truffles and mushrooms. Additionally, they may feed on insects such as caterpillars and larvae. They have also been known to eat certain bird eggs or nestlings if available. These foods are usually found at the base of trees or near fallen logs in the forest where flying squirrels inhabit.
6. What Is the Best Bait for Flying Squirrels?
The best bait for flying squirrels is nuts, seeds, and fruits. Nuts like walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pecans are all excellent sources of protein and fats that provide energy for flying squirrels. Seeds such as sunflower seeds and peanuts are a great source of nutrition as well. Fruits like apples, berries, and grapes provide carbohydrates and nutrients to the squirrels. These food sources will attract the flying squirrels to your yard or garden where you can observe them in their natural habitat! If you want to go a step further you can try adding small amounts of peanut butter or honey to the food as well since they have a strong smell that will attract the squirrels even more.
7. Are Flying Squirrels Dangerous?
No, flying squirrels are not dangerous to humans. They are small rodents with flat tails, big eyes, and soft fur that is usually grayish-brown in color. They feed mostly on nuts, fruits, and flowers and have a nocturnal lifestyle. Flying squirrels don’t actually fly; they glide from tree to tree using a membrane between their arms and legs. Flying squirrels rarely make contact with humans and when they do it is usually in search of food or shelter. Although their presence can sometimes be seen or heard in attics or walls of homes near wooded areas during the winter months, they pose no threat to people and typically move on once the spring arrives.
Attracting flying squirrels to your backyard requires creating an environment that meets their needs for food, water, and shelter. By providing natural and artificial food sources, preserving natural nesting sites, and minimizing threats from predators and other dangers, you can create an ideal habitat for flying squirrels. Observing and enjoying flying squirrels in your backyard can also be a rewarding experience, and by following ethical wildlife photography and observation practices and engaging in citizen science projects, you can learn more about these fascinating animals and contribute to conservation efforts. By supporting local wildlife and ecosystems, we can help ensure that flying squirrels and other animals continue to thrive for generations to come.