Minnesota’s Mystery Squirrel

What picture comes to mind when you think squirrel ?

 

grey squirrel

 

Did you know that we had flying squirrels in Minnesota?

 

 

 Northern Flying Squirrel Eating Seeds

 

 

Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)

northern flying squirrel

I fell in love with the northern flying squirrel about 10 years ago and I am now blessed with a family of five flying squirrels that actually live in my front yard in our Maple tree. These little critters are seldom seen and very few people even know they exist let alone in their own backyard. Besides their ability to glide which is just amazing to see in person. I just love the northern flying squirrels personality. They are very curious and almost naturally tame.
I live in the suburbs of Minneapolis and my buddy Randy had a family of flyers that he fed every night and the first time I saw these guys fly in at the sound of a can of seeds being shaken I was hooked. You don’t have to live in the forest or in the country to enjoy these squirrels. I later learned a neighbor a few blocks away also had them in their yard and they were hand feeding pecans to the flying squirrels. So I was determined to attract a family of my own and this post is about how I did it.

How do you attract northern flying squirrels?

Here are the basic requirements
• Large trees are a must because flying squirrels are arboreal and never leave the trees.
• Having a tree with a hollow or cavity is a huge plus and I’ll explain why later.
• Simple shelf feeder attached directly to the tree.
• Black oil sunflower seeds for daily feeding
• Pecans, walnuts, mealworms, dried fruit, peanuts for treats.
• Solar sidewalk lamp. Place by feeder so you can see the squirrels at night.
• Ask neighbors or local birdwatchers if they have seen flyers in the area.

Northern flying squirrels are nocturnal so you will never see them during the day. It’s important that you fill your feeders just after dark otherwise the gray squirrels and birds will eat all the sunflower seeds before the flyers wake up. I feed mine at sunset every day and of course that time varies depending on the season. I attached a small bell on a wire and that is fastened to the tree. Every time I feed them I ring the bell and that lets them know that there is fresh food in the feeder.

 

My Feeding Station For Flying Squirrels

 

The video above is my front yard and a family of five northern flying squirrels live in this Maple tree.  It’s April 2nd 2015 and the squirrels are mating and babies should be born soon. If all goes well we should double the size of our flyer family.

Northern Flying Squirrel Reproduction

Flying squirrel mating season begins in March and goes through May depending on the weather. After mating the young are born 25 days later totally blind and only weighing .2 oz the average litter size is 2-4. The babies eyes open after 32 days and nurse off their mother for 60 days.

We have been very lucky and have seen our squirrel family raise young for the last two years and I expect 2015 to be a success as well. Once you actually start seeing the baby squirrels they are already 90 days old and look like little hamsters. They are a bit more cautious in approaching humans and move lightning fast. They practice leaping from branch to branch and chase each other around the tree like they are playing tag. Before you know it they are jumping from one tree 75 ft away on to another and start venturing off the nest tree. They do seem to naturally know where their nest is because if they get freaked out they immediately scamper back to safety of the tree cavity.

 

northern flying squirrels

 

 Diet of Northern Flying Squirrel

I mentioned in the video that we feed our squirrels black oil sunflower seeds but that is just a treat for them. Northern flying squirrels have a very interesting and varied diet due to the harsh climates they live in,  like here in Minnesota. During the winter the majority of their diet consists of lichens and various fungi. This was a surprise to me but it makes total sense when you think about during the winter there are no buds, seeds or insects to eat. I had read in a couple of different articles that flying squirrels travel on top of the snow and create tunnels through the snow. I have never seen this in my own yard and would certainly notice if they were doing it because I feed them every night and we also have an English setter that would of investigated the tunnels if they existed.

 

flying squirrel lichens

 

 

 

 

northern flying squirrel eat sunflower seeds

 

 

 

 

 

When spring arrives the flyers have a lot more options as the trees begin to bud, gardens and lawns begin to grow and insects start hatching.

 

Baby Northern Flying That Fell From Nest

 

 

I hope you enjoyed the post and I really hope you put a feeder out for the amazing northern flying squirrel. If you have a question please leave a comment I would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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