Flying squirrels flatten their lightweight bodies to glide like flying carpets of fur.
In New Jersey, there are two flying squirrel species, the Southern Flying Squirrel and the Northern Flying Squirrel. However, the Northern Flying Squirrel is a rare visitor around human habitats preferring the highest peaks in the cool spruce/fir forest zone. As far as wildlife control is concerned in suburban areas, we are dealing with the abundant Southern Flying Squirrel. Even though this squirrel is a common resident of suburban communities, it is rarely seen because it is nocturnal. Homeowners generally take notice of them when they hear strange noises coming from the attic.
These squirrels are omnivores; they eat acorns, hickory nuts, seeds, berries, mushrooms, flower blossoms, tree bark and sometimes insects, bird eggs, and mice. While eating nuts, they will cut a hole at the end of the nut to eat the insides leaving the shell intact, unlike other squirrels that fully crush the nut in order to eat it.
The flying squirrel is vastly different in appearance and habit from other squirrels because of its unique means of mobility. However, the term “flying” is a misnomer. Flying squirrels don’t have wings, so they can’t fly in the true sense like birds. In fact, bats are the only mammals capable of true flight. Although they can’t fly, flying squirrels are able to leap into space and glide from one tree to another with great skill. If it weren’t for the less ominous tone, it would have been far more accurate for Batman, based on his gliding ability from his cape, to have called himself “Squirrelman.” Flying squirrels can control their glide and speed by direction and angle. They have been recorded to glide as far as the length of a football field.
Flying squirrels are rodents and live in colonies. Like all rodents, they must chew and gnaw to manage their continually growing incisors. Homes infested with flyer colonies often have chewed electrical wires, which can easily turn into a fire hazard. Stains and odors from their urine and feces can make one’s home unlivable and pose the risk of disease. All wildlife can bring in parasites and disease-carrying tics. A flying squirrel control issue in one’s home is an emergency that must be addressed immediately.
The most common initial complaint from New Jersey homeowners is from the noise that these nocturnal critters make. Homeowners tend to notice that there is some family of wild animals hovering in the attic during the night hours when flying squirrels are active. Besides the normal sounds of scurrying and footprints, these animals make soft chirping and clucking noises. Suffice it to say, these animals don’t hide their presence and if there is a flying squirrel colony that has set up shop in your home, you will know about it. Wildlife are not polite and make their presence known.
So you go up in the attic. Lo and behold, you see a small brown animal bigger than mouse but smaller than a rat that has a flat tail and big black-as-coal eyes. It is most likely a flying squirrel. But don’t get any closer to confirm it. Any wild animal can attack if it feels threatened in close quarters. And if a mother is protecting its babies, you don’t want to be the designated intruder. The best advice for your own safety is to immediately get out of the attic and contact a wildlife removal specialist. Whether it is a flying squirrel, bat, or some other critter, the bottom line is that you have wildlife in your house that doesn’t belong there. Flying squirrel removal should be left to professionals, so that they may relocate them as soon as possible to minimize any damage.
Flying squirrels are extremely small in size compared to other tree squirrel species such as the Eastern Grey squirrel. Their entire body length is no more than 14 inches and they weight just 2 to 8 ounces. They are usually a shade of brown or grey with a broad flattened tail. They have enlarged eyes that help them see in dim light, slender bodies.
Flying squirrels have a membrane of loose skin along both sides of its body from the wrist to ankle, called the patagium. This flat parachute-like extension of skin catches air and enables it to "fly." As a flying squirrel pushes off into the air, it spreads its four legs so that the patagium stretches open tightly. The squirrel can make sharp turns and control its direction by tightening or loosening its membrane almost like controlling a sailboat, raising its tail to slow its glide when bracing for a landing. The flying squirrel cannot defy gravity and always glides from a higher perch to a lower perch.
The flying squirrel has two litters per year: one in early spring, the other in mid-summer. Each litter produces from one to six young. The young are blind, naked and helpless. Flying squirrels usually live in medium (4-10) or large (10-20) communal families with one or two breeding males while the rest are breeding females or immature squirrels. Adult Eastern Grey squirrels tend to live alone.
Homeowners who suspect a flying squirrel control issue will want to take action swiftly, since they cause damage when they enter buildings via construction gaps, dormer and louver vents, chimneys, fascia boards and soffits. Their entrance hole is often times the size of a quarter. Squirrels have been responsible for starting fires by chewing on electrical wires. Other damages include accumulated droppings, urine stains, chewing and gnawing on wood, and degradation of insulation.
Outside the home they are known to denude bark on trees and shrubs, dig holes in turf, and raid bird feeders and gardens. They are, on rare occasions, carriers of rabies and typhus, but these squirrels usually pose little threat to humans. Nevertheless, they can carry parasites and their waste products can become a health concern as well.
There are various approaches for removing and controlling flying squirrels. Prevention of the flying squirrel entry, or excluding the site is of extreme importance in solving this situation. Another technique is humanely live-trapping the flying squirrels from the space. Cage trapping flying squirrels can be utilized, using nuts and vegetables. Tree trimming around the building will discourage use by these squirrels, along with other birds and animals. We also recommended installing chimney caps on any uncovered chimney, to prevent unwanted flying squirrel entry. Cowleys Pest Services can also deodorize and sanitize the area and repair damage from nuisance wildlife.