Southern Flying Squirrel

Scientific Name
Glaucomys volans
Also Known As
Mexican Flying Squirrel, Assapan
Range
All of Florida, except the Keys
Diet
Nuts, Flowers, Eggs, Trees, Bird Seed
Life Expectancy
3 Years
The Southern Flying Squirrel

Photo 509620 (c) Kent McFarland, CC

Southern Flying Squirrel conservation status - Least Concern

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Southern Flying Squirrels in Central Florida

The southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) is a small, agile rodent adapted to arboreal life in central Florida’s subtropical forests and urban areas.

Often confused with the larger northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus), southern flying squirrels can be identified by key physical characteristics, behaviors, and habitat preferences. This guide covers identification tips, biology, potential health risks, and prevention methods for southern flying squirrel issues.

Appearance and Identification

Southern flying squirrels have distinguishing features at both juvenile and adult life stages

Adult Southern Flying Squirrel

Photo 65036176 (c) Ken Potter, CC BY-NC

Adult Fox Squirrel

  • Size: Adults reach 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) long including the 3-4 inch (8-10 cm) tail. They weigh 1.5-2.5 oz (40-70 g).
  • Fur: Thick, soft dorsal fur ranges from grayish, brownish, to cinnamon. The venter is white.
  • Membranes: A fur-covered patagium extends between the front and hind legs, enabling gliding.
  • Face: Large bulging eyes adapted for nocturnal vision. Small rounded ears fringed with white hair.
  • Feet: Long digits with flat nails and stiff hairs to aid climbing and gliding.
Juvenile Southern Flying Squirrel

Photo 131586278 (c) George Pushkal, CC BY-NC

Juvenile Fox Squirrel

  • Size: Newborns are hairless, pink, and weigh just 0.2 oz (5 g). They reach 2.25-3 inches (6-8 cm) long including the tail by 5-6 weeks old.
  • Fur: Juvenile fur grows in with a grayish appearance overall. The venter is lighter gray or whitish.
  • Features: Large black eyes and ears relative to the head size. Membranes between front and hind legs start developing by 3 weeks old.

Compared to tree squirrels, southern flying squirrels have smaller bodies, looser skin for gliding membranes, flattened tails, and larger eyes and ears. The northern flying squirrel is larger with rusty brown fur and is confined to northern Florida.

Maturation Rate

Southern flying squirrel neonates develop rapidly into adept, independent gliders within 2 months after birth. They quickly learn skills like food foraging, predator avoidance, nest building, and social integration from their mother and colony members. With Florida’s abundant resources, juveniles can breed in their first year.

Habits and Behavior

Southern flying squirrels are nocturnal and most active 2-3 hours after sunset. They spend days sleeping in tree cavities or leaf nests called dreys. At night, flying squirrels glide between trees to forage. With legs outstretched, they can steer and glide up to 150 feet between launches. On the ground, they shuffle with an awkward, wobbling gait.

Southern flying squirrels emit bird-like twitters and nest in colonies of up to 50, often with pine snakes and red-cockaded woodpeckers. They are drawn to bird feeders at night and can squeeze into houses through small openings. Females are territorial, but male home ranges overlap more.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Southern flying squirrels can breed twice yearly in Florida’s warmer climate. Females enter estrus in January and June. After 44 days gestation, they give birth to litters of 2-4 young. Females raise 2-3 litters per year.

Young squirrels open their eyes at 4 weeks old and can glide by 6-7 weeks. They are sexually mature by 1 year old. Lifespan in the wild is about 3 years, but can reach 10 years in captivity.