A flying squirrel is a type of rodent. It is a member of a tribe of squirrels called family Sciuridae. Within this tribe, there are 43 different species.
A flying squirrel does not actually fly. Instead, it launches itself from a high position and extends loose flaps of skin from its arms to its legs. These extended skin flaps allow it to glide through the air. As such, flying squirrels are actually squirrels that glide.
The flying squirrel has no problem maneuvering once it is in the air. It is able to steer and direct its flight by changing the tautness of its wing flaps. The flying squirrel’s tail is very important to its flight. It acts as a stabilizer while the squirrel is flying and behaves like an airfoil when the squirrel attempts to slow down, stop, and land.
A flying squirrel travels by gliding from tree to tree. It may glide from two to 65 yards (two to 60 meters) in a single glide. However, the distance it can travel in one glide depends upon the species in question. The height and terrain of its launching point affect the distance traveled as well.
The flying squirrel is nocturnal. It remains hidden during the day, venturing out a little after sunset. Flying squirrels have large eyes, making it easer for them to see at night.
In the wild, the flying squirrel has a short lifespan; typically, it lives for about 5 years. In captivity, however, the flying squirrel may enjoy a much longer life, lasting for 10 to 15 years. The lack of longevity in the wild is due to the high rate at which flying squirrels are killed by predators. They are prey for many animals, including owls, snakes, raccoons, and coyotes. Even the domestic house cat is a flying squirrel predator.
In addition to predators, the flying squirrel must often contend with deforestation. When too much space is cleared between trees and other natural launching and landing places, gliding becomes difficult or impossible. Furthermore, the removal of trees and other vegetation leads to the loss of nesting places for flying squirrels.
Without considering their tails, most flying squirrels are between three to 24 inches (eight to 60 centimeters) long. They eat nuts and fruit. They may also consume insects, tree buds, sap, fungi, and bird eggs. Typically, they stay off the ground.