Thursday, November 20, 2008

Flying Squirrels


Required viewing for Flying Squirrel lovers, Click here





I can personally vouch for these little guys as being friendly. I had some as pets when I was a kid. They are every bit as soft and cuddley as they look like they are. They spend a lot of time grooming. They groom just like a cat, only way faster. To clean their heads they lick their paws and scrub their ears with them. The rest of their body they lick with their tongues. They don’t stop until every speck of their little frame is licked clean. They seem to like being handled. Maybe they like the warmth of the hands or maybe they remember the eyedropper that they were raised with, I’m not sure. They are much cuter in person than they look in the pictures. They are unbelievably soft and silky, they put a chinchilla to shame.

The one that we had was from a nest in a Redwood tree. When the tree was fallen the adult squirrels flew away and the babies were left in the nest to ride the tree down. Dad found a live one and put it in his shirt pocket and brought it home for mom to raise. She raised the baby squirrel with an eyedropper and warm canned milk. The baby was kept in an old bird cage while it was young. It grew up quite fast. Then we fed it mostly peanuts. As an aside we had a small black dog that would steal peanuts from the squirrel. She would bite them to crack them open, then she would roll them around on the floor to remove the brown skin off the nut, then she would eat it. The amazing thing to me is that the dog learned how to eat peanuts from watching the squirrel.

The squirrel became very active and we would let it run around the house in the evening before we went to bed. Then lock it in its cage. The dog never tried to hurt the squirrel and thought of it as a buddy. One of the things that I thought was cute about it was if it wanted to be on me it would run up the couch onto the window curtain and fly onto me. I always wondered why it didn’t just run up my leg.

If we forgot to lock him in his cage, he would run down the counter to the Kleenex box and steal all of the Kleenexes and put them in his cage. In the morning when we came out to the kitchen, there he would be with his cage absolutely stuffed with Kleenex. Some times he would stick his nose out, just to take credit for all of his hard work. Dad liked to put the Kleenex box on one end of the counter, and the squirrel cage on the other just to watch him work to steal all of the Kleenexes. My mother for some reason thought that this shouldn’t happen, that it was a waste of good Kleenexes, and it was teaching the squirrel bad tricks and a few thousand other reasons why it shouldn’t be allowed. Which only made dad enjoy it more.

One night when we left the cage door open, he filled his cage with all of the Kleenexes, then scampered down to my bedroom, went under the door up the curtain, and flew over to my bed. Apparently the fastest route isn’t as interesting to a squirrel as the fun route. Then he proceeded to find his way under the covers and I was awakened to him running down my backbone as a I was laying on my side. I never allowed him to run around the bed for two reasons. First he was nocturnal, and kept me awake, and second I was afraid that I would squish him. So, I would get up and lock him in his cage. This happened every time that we left the door open, so it became a game to him.

Many redwood loggers had pet flying squirrels for the same reason. It’s darn hard to just let a baby squirrel die. So, we had a friend that had a couple of flying squirrels and we came up with this plan were we would put them all in a cage together and have baby flying squirrels. The cage was large and it had a big hamster exercise wheel. They put the cage in my room because that was the only place that it would fit. The wheel never stopped turning all night long. They would take turns keeping it going. When one would tire, another would take over, or sometimes all three would be in the wheel. One would hold on and the other two would propel him over the top time and time again. What fun! Anyway if their was any thoughts of making babies it didn’t show. We think that they were all males. We moved their cage outside under the protection of the porch to give then more privacy, but still no babies. They all eventually died of old age.
One of the little squirrels developed what we thought was rickets, and the vet gave him some vitamins and calcium. He got better but he never really got over it. I know now from the research, that anybody can do on the computer, that a squirrel needs lots of bones and especially deer horns for their calcium.

If you ever decide to keep one of these fluffy little critters as a pet you must accept that they are nocturnal and they like to play at night. I actually enjoyed their little noises in my bedroom and slept better. Play time for them is sundown, up until you go to bed, so there is plenty of quality pet time for a kid.

If you are still reading , don't go away while I drag out my soapbox. As everybody out there might have guessed. I hated what the corporate logging and lumber companies did to the industry. I hated even more the phony "Environmentalist". I say that as opposed to the Environmentalist that knew what they were talking about which was damn few. Talking about the flying Squirrel Reminded me of one reason why I had no respect for the protesters that were here to "save the Redwoods'. they had absolutely no idea of what they were doing. They didn't know anything about the life cycle of a Redwood tree. They didn't know that if you cut a Redwood that many Redwoods come up from stump shoots and suckers. They didn't know that the average Redwood's original plant went back ten thousand years or more. They didn't know the difference between a second growth and an old growth. Most of all, what bothered me is they didn't know that the main loss to falling a Redwood is the Flying Squirrel. They chose the Spotted Owl as their icon critter. When they were not really endangered. When the old growth is cleared, the Spotted Owl starts catching the mice that thrive in the overcut. The poor flying squirrel is the main critter to be hurt, but they are not endangered.

Probably more of these little critters are killed in the logging of a Redwood forest than any other. They are arboreal. They live in the treetops and nest in cavities found from a rotted limb or other hole in the tree.

These little guys are very common in the Redwood Forest, they are so common that the Northern Spotted Owl feeds almost exclusively on them:

"Diet Of the Northern Spotted owl:
Northern Flying Squirrels are their most common prey, but they also eat rats, mice, voles, rabbits, and bats. To a lesser extent they feed on small birds, reptiles, and large invertebrates"


It always smacked as being phony of them to try to save the critter (The Spotted Owl) that wasn't really being harmed, while ignoring the flying Squirrel. And I often thought that if they would just take a few of these sweet little critters to a classroom, or a public meeting, and saying that this is what is being killed when the forest is cut, especially a clearcut. They could have stopped logging overnight.

But, I was raised on a ranch, and I knew all about life and death. We raised the animals that we ate and it was all part of agriculture. Logging is important for our future, as we are all about to find out. Some of the critters will have to be sacrificed for the good of us all, but I think that we should be realistic, and not rape and clearcut, like the cut-and-run corporations did. And, leave some room for my Squirrels!


27 comments:

Rose said...

Ohhhhh! I want one! I'll take good care of it!

Indie said...

My favorite part of this story is that your little squirrel took the long way to your lap every time, the way that involved flying, the fun way. And that the 3 squirrels together kept the wheel going non-stop by taking shifts. :)

And I also like what you said, that if the save-the-redwoods folks had taken some cute flying squirrels to classrooms, logging could have been stopped overnight.

My sister had a pet squirrel too, a regular squirrel who had been orphaned.

Fred said...

I'll be damned. I never knew there were flying squirrels around here. I've never seen one, either, except in pictures.

lodgepole said...

Thanks for these last couple posts Ernie. I haven't thought of flying squirrels or ringtailed cats in a long time. Funny how I could almost forget about these guys.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Well fred, flying squirrels don't live in town. I've seen many of them leap from a falling Redwood. You know that stuff that they built the town with? Is your house made out of Redwood? You shouldn't feel guilty if it is, just be thankful that your house was built before the housing crunch.

ross sherburn said...

i'm in the same boat as fred.i've lived in norcal all my life and have never saw one either.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Opps, I should have said this. Their life span is heartbreakingly short. Especially if Rose is going to get one as a pet.

"Development is slow in comparison with other mammals of similar size. Their eyes open at about 25 days, and they nurse for about 60 to 70 days. By day 240, the young are fully grown and cannot be distinguished from adults by body measurements and fur characteristics. Mortality rate for flying squirrels 1 and 2 years old is about 50 percent, and few live past 4 years of age. Complete population turnover can occur by the third year.
"

Ernie Branscomb said...

Opps, I should have said this. Their life span is heartbreakingly short. Especially if Rose is going to get one as a pet.

"Development is slow in comparison with other mammals of similar size. Their eyes open at about 25 days, and they nurse for about 60 to 70 days. By day 240, the young are fully grown and cannot be distinguished from adults by body measurements and fur characteristics. Mortality rate for flying squirrels 1 and 2 years old is about 50 percent, and few live past 4 years of age. Complete population turnover can occur by the third year.
"

miffy the slagondrayer said...

I thought I was getting edited when my posts weren't getting posted last night or I would not have posted on and on...my apologies for overposting.

Anonymous said...

ernie your posts are great. ive seen some of these squirels in the redwoods state park before.

Fred said...

Ernie asks, "Is your house made out of Redwood?".

Yep. Old growth, I would think, as construction began on it in 1880.

DubThomas said...

We saw 2 flying squirrels just after dark fly down and land in a tree in front of our porch. We live in the piney woods of east Texas and I did not know they were in Texas. Can you tell me if they are in Texas?

Thanks, Dub
dubthomas@valornet.com

Ernie Branscomb said...

Dub

Sorry I can't tell you if they live in Texas, but it seems likely that they would. They would eat the pine nuts and get fat. If you want to keep them coming around, try feeding them some pine nuts in a feeder.

We live in the Texas part of California, we have the worlds tallest trees and we brag about them a lot. Take good care of your squirrels, they will reward you with much entertainment. They will get quite tame after being fed.

Ernie

Anonymous said...

Ernie, do you know if they sell baby lying squirrels anywhere in pet shops? I wuld love to get one.

Anonymous said...

They are quite fun to have around, but I don't know where you'd get one. I had a friend who had one when I was a kid. it was a great pet. I think he found it abandoned in the forest as a baby.

Keep in mind that squirrels can carry plague. I know, it sounds crazy, but it's a holdover from a plague outbreak in San Francisco at the turn of the last century. It exists in the southwestern quarter of the country, but I don't know how far north it goes in California. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

HOMO

steve said...

I saved a baby flying squirrel from our cat and he jumped in the swimming pool. I fished him out with a towel and he latched on me with his teeth. He broke the skin.I live in the Piney Woods of Texas. Do I need to worry about rabies?

Viagra Online said...

I love these Flying squirrels they are my favorite, plus they are too cute. thanks for the nice pictures, I collect squirrel pictures!

lori said...

Sadly, my first real close look at one was when my cat left one on the porch a few nights ago. I have a 10 year old who came up with the idea of taking it to a taxidermist so that its body can be preserved to show people what they are.
But the good news is that a couple nights later, the cat brought another one in the yard, but we were able to get the cat in the house and the smart little guy was just playing dead. so we got to rescue one and touch him and watch him escape. man these are amazing creatures.
by the way, we live in old woods of east Texas surrounded by oaks and hickories.

Anonymous said...

Well you won't believe it! Our cat Sophie chased a flying squirrel down from our attic and cornered it in the shower. We got a photo and it looks just like yours. We live 20 miles north of Chicago in the suburbs. My husband captured and released it in the alley. He had quite a time catching him with all the jumping and flying attempts by our little friend.
-Linda

Ernie Branscomb said...

Cute, aren't they.

Jana and Corey said...

We have them all in our attic and chased one around the bedroom all morning. Feel free to take them home with you!!!

Rosie said...

They are so beautiful and your story was absolutely wonderful. Thank you for the info. I'm not sure if I have a flying Squirrelor not. He's very tiny has webbed legs his eyes aren't open yet. Just so tiny ful of hair and big teeth that hurt when he bites me,lol, before he eats. Whatever he is he's adorable. Thanks again. Rosie

kimmie said...

I saved a baby flying squirrel from my cat last night it is so cute I would like to know how old it is it will let me hold it and it loves to crawl up in my front breast pocket I can see I can see he has teeth but he doesn't seem to use them reading that puppy formula is best I have some kittens milk but I still need to get some of that special puppy formula

Debbie Parker said...

I live in Missouri and our cat brought up a baby southern flying squirrel i have had it 24 hrs it is so lovable its almost as if they are domestic.It is a male and i am trying to find its family and a way to keep the 2 farm cats away from them.This little boy is the sweetest and like you said they love to be touched he curls up in my hand or wraps hisself around my fingers to get me to cup my hand around him.

Belinda McCormick said...

I am so sad! I just found my baby Flash has died. He is 2 years old and died suddenly. No warning at all. I gave him his supplements regularly. Do you have any idea what could have caused this?

Ernie Branscomb said...

I'm sorry for your loss. All three of mine died closely to each other. They don't live that long. At least you can be happy that you gave Flash a good life.