Flying squirrels don’t hibernate, but we rarely see them because they are strictly nocturnal.
However, they are as common as the red and gray squirrels we see during the day, and they do come to wildlife feeding stations for suet, peanut butter, raw peanuts and sunflower seeds. A spotlight aimed on your feeders will not keep them away, but will give you an opportunity to watch them feed. I have seen them many times this way.
About 10 inches long and weighing 2 to 3 ounces, flying squirrels have big eyes and thick, soft fur that is brown on the upper body and white below. They also have loose folds of skin between their front and hind legs. A flying squirrel will climb to a high branch and hurl itself into space, extending its four legs outward in a fixed position so that the flaps are stretched like wings.
Flying squirrels don’t actually fly, but glide as they lose altitude, guiding themselves with their flat, bushy tails. Most glides are 25 to 50 feet and end at the trunk of another tree, though glides of more than 150 feet have been observed.
On the downward glide, the squirrel will raise its tail so as to slow down. Upon grabbing the tree, it immediately scampers to the other side of the trunk to foil any hungry owl that may be following too closely.
Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.