Critter Chatter – Flying Rodents? Half I

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Critter Chatter – Flying Rodents? Half I

When I stopped by to bring some muffins to Don Cote at the Wildlife Care Center the other day, a new addition caught my eye: a flying squirrel that had probably been hit by a car. I was hoping to see it up close, but aviators are nocturnal animals so it stayed hidden under the bedding while I was there. However, Don said the squirrel eats and drinks well and is quite active in the evenings.

Although Duck Pond typically gets 35-50 flying squirrel registrations a year, Don said he only had two the year before, which he released in the spring. He suspects others were taken to other rehabbers or injuries are not reported/treated. I wonder if climate change and/or habitat loss are affecting their populations?

I found an article Carleen Cote had written and shared some of her information: “Flying squirrels are nocturnal and rarely seen. Their eyes protrude much like a bat’s eyes, an advantage when moving at night and gliding through the trees, from the highest branch to the lowest. Although called flying squirrels, they actually glide using four covered folds of skin that extend from wrists to ankles, providing a wide surface area when limbs are extended laterally. They have a flattened tail, are relatively light, and have an extremely soft coat, much softer than velvet, which offers little frictional resistance to air. Flyers are basically vegetarians but not seed eaters, and they will consume insects and meat when it’s available. They live in old woodpecker burrows; several can occupy the same hole. They are active throughout the winter and do not appear to store food.”

flying squirrelCarleen wrote a second column in 2012: “Flying squirrels are not chewers or destructive like reds and grays. They gather in winter to warm themselves… So far this year we have 51 flyers at home. Flying squirrels usually move into a building when it gets cold. If they become a problem and are trapped they should never be released outside as they would likely freeze to death. Call the nearest rehabilitator to ask if they will keep them for the winter. We are always available if you need warm accommodation during the cold months.”

Next month I will be sharing information from my research on the flying squirrel’s habitat, diet, family structure and characteristics. Did you know there are two species in Maine?

Although approvals usually slow down at this time of year, Don will receive calls from people concerned about young animals who are now adjusting to life in the wild without the care of their mothers. Some are simply learning to be independent, but others may be orphaned or injured and struggling to survive. While Don continues to take them in, he delegates rescues to other rehabbers, who lend generous help to keep Duck Pond’s animal care manageable. Please check the following websites to see if there is a rehabber in your area: www.mainevetmed.org/wildlife-rehabilitation or www.maine.gov/ifw/fish-wildlife/wildlife/living-with-wildlife/ orphaned-injured-wildlife /index.html. Donald Cote operates Duck Pond Wildlife Care Center on Rte. 3 in Vassalboro. It is a non-profit, state-licensed rehab facility funded by its own funds and outside donations. Postal Address: 1787 North Belfast Avenue, Vassalboro ME 04989 Telephone: (207) 445-4326. Please note that the previous Wildlifecarecenter email address is not currently being monitored.

– by Jayne Winters, Member of the Natural Resources Council of Maine of South China, Maine

Critter Chatter also appears monthly in the Town Line newspaper.

All photos by Jayne Winters