QUICK SUMMARY ↬ Drawing flying squirrels can be very easy if you live in an area where there’s a lot of mature trees. Attract them with their preferred food like acorns (or other nuts) on a feeding platform attached to a tree.
Flying isn’t just for the birds. A stretchy layer and rudder-like tail help flying squirrels sail through the treetops, dodging land-bound predators with ease.
Seeing one can have a magical reaction on both children and adults. But how can you attract flying squirrels to your backyard?
Is it really a “flying” squirrel?
Flying squirrels are also known as “fairy diddles”. The reason why you can’t—or seldom—see them flying around your backyard is that these flying critters are nocturnal.
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But even without even seeing one, a little bit of research will show that flying squirrels aren’t actually “flying”. They are not capable of flight like birds or bats.
Instead, they glide through trees with the help of patagium, a furry, parachute-like membrane that extends from their wrists down to their ankles.
Their long tail provides balance in flight and flipping those tails up will put on the brakes.
Flying squirrels can be more appropriately be called “gliding squirrels”. Here’s a 2-minute video of how a flying squirrel manages to “fly”.
Where do flying squirrels live
Northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) and southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans) are the only two native flying squirrel species found in the US.
The northern flying squirrel has a much uneven population but is found primarily in the Northeast, along the West Coast, and into Idaho and Montana.
The southern flying squirrel is found throughout the eastern United States, from Maine south to Florida and west from Minnesota south to Texas.
Both northern and southern squirrels live, nest, and take shelter in shredded trees, coniferous forests, and mixed hardwood forests. They make their homes in snags, woodpecker holes, nest boxes, and abandoned nests of birds and other squirrels. Sometimes multiple flying squirrels will nest together to keep warm in the winter.
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Signs of flying squirrels
Though people rarely see them, flying squirrels love to visit backyard feeders at night. So, you probably are already being visited without noticing it.
These shy furry critters will not leave without a trace though. Here are the signs of flying squirrels visiting your backyard at night:
- bird seed disappears overnight
- bark stripped from cedar trees that are stored inside bird houses
- high pitch sounds up the trees during night
- enlarged entry holes to your bird boxes
How to identify flying squirrels
Without their patagia, flying squirrels can be very similar in look to tree squirrels.
They have small rounded faces, raised ears, and feathery tails that can be as long as their bodies. Their eyes are huge, helping these nocturnal mammals navigate the night, and their fur color and markings vary by species.
In 2019, it was observed that a flying squirrel fluoresced pink. So, if you see that at night, you could be looking at a flying squirrel.
How to attract flying squirrels
Provide food and water supply
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There are multiple ways to do this. The most effective way is to buy a squirrel feeder, fill it with nuts, and hang it on trees.
Acorn is considered to be squirrel’s favorite food. It’s widely considered the best bait for flying squirrels.
Flying squirrels are also attracted not only to squirrel feeders but to bird feeders as well. If they see bird feeders filled with seeds or nut meats, they will definitely come.
You may also attract flying squirrels by giving them easy access to a water supply.
Having easy access to both food and water in your backyard will give them a reason to keep coming back.
Build nest boxes
Flying squirrels are cavity nesters, so make it easy for them to find a space to cozy up inside. Nest boxes can be substitute homes for cavity dwelling species that typically build their nests in tree trunks.
Most squirrels can be perfectly happy residing in a bird box. For the most accurate sizing, use a nest box that is at least 7×7″ on the bottom and at least 8–10″ in height. The entrance hole should be at least 1.25″ to accommodate a Southern flying squirrel or 1.50″ for a Northern flying squirrel.
You can place the enclosure 10′ or higher if you like, but flying squirrels can be seen in lower locations as well. No matter where you hang it, ensure that it is as safe from predators as possible. Mount them on a pole rather than a tree, if possible.
If you’re lucky, you may just catch a flying squirrel relaxing in the new home! Just be careful when checking for them, as they may bite!
Preserve dead trees
While it may be tempting to remove any dead trees found in your backyard, they could be homes to flying squirrels or other animals. As long as these trees aren’t posing a threat to your home or humans, it’s worth considering to keep them around.
Flying squirrels are secondary cavity nesters, meaning they live in holes created by other types of wildlife. Animals tend to live in dead trees, rather than ones that are still living. It’s pretty common for these little creatures to huddle up inside of a dead tree to stay warm during winter.
If you live in an area known to have flying squirrels, luring them to your backyard isn’t that hard.
Timing is the key. Look for flying squirrels two hours after sunset and sunrise.
Get started now and give them their favorite food and a place to nest. Soon, they’ll be happy to keep coming back to your pretty backyard and be happy camper.
Remember that there’s always a downside of this: once they are inside your house or attic, you may have difficulty turning them away. So make sure that there aren’t any small holes or crack that they could slip into.