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Flying Squirrel Spotted In Vermilion

This furry creature was spotted at Heather and Maurice MacMillan’s bird feeder on March 14.

These squirrels usually live in coniferous and mixed coniferous forests across much of Canada. They are light brown with pale under parts and grow to a length of 10 to 15 in. They are good gliders but clumsy walkers on the ground. They feed on a variety of plant material as well as tree sap, fungi, insects, carrion, bird eggs and nestlings.

Unlike most members of their family, flying squirrels are strictly nocturnal.

These rodents have thick light brown or cinnamon fur on their upper body and greyish fur on the flanks and whitish fur underneath. They have large eyes and a flat tail. They can also be identified by their long whiskers, common to nocturnal mammals.

Flying squirrels do not actually fly, they glide. From atop of trees, flying squirrels can initiate glides from a running start or from a stationary position by bringing their limbs under the body, retracting their heads, and then propelling themselves off the tree. It is believed that they use triangulation to estimate the distance of the landing as they often lean out and pivot from side to side before jumping. Once in the air, they form an "X" with their limbs, causing their membrane to stretch into a square-like shape and glide down at angles of 30 to 40 degrees. They maneuver with great efficiency in the air, making 90 degree turns around obstacles if needed. Just before reaching a tree, they raise their flattened tails which abruptly changes their trajectory upwards, and point all of their limbs forward to create a parachute effect with the membrane in order to reduce the shock of landing. The limbs absorb the remainder of the impact, and the squirrels immediately run to the other side of the trunk or to the top of the tree in order to avoid any potential predators.

Although graceful in flight, when on the ground, they prefer to hide rather than attempt an escape from a predator.

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Information credit Wikipedia. Photo Maurice MacMillan

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