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Southern Flying Squirrels as Pets

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Scientific Name:

Glaucomys volans

Expected Life Span:

10-12 years.

Size:

8-10 inches, including the tail.

Weight:

2-4 ounces.

Natural Distribution:

Southern and eastern United States.

Legal Status as Pets: you must check the legality of keeping southern flying squirrels as pets as the laws vary in different states, provinces, and countries. Especially in areas where they are native, it may be illegal to keep them as pets, or a permit may be required.

Temperament:

Southern flying squirrels form a very deep bond with their owners if acquired at a young age - are usually quite happy to spend time climbing and playing on their owner or sleeping in a pocket or bonding pouch on their owner.

Habits:

Southern flying squirrel are nocturnal, although they can adapt to spending time with their owners during the day if provided with a pouch or pocket for sleeping. A gliding membrane extends from the fore leg to the hind leg when the legs are extended and allows them to glide from perch to perch, sometimes as far as 150 feet (but only in a downward direction).

Feeding:

In the wild, Southern flying squirrels eat a variety of nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects. In captivity they seem to do well pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, walnuts, acorns and hickory nuts, supplemented with bird seed mix, and a variety of fresh veggies (corn and sweet potoatoes are popular)and fruit. Mealworms and waxworms can also be offered, and occasional treats of hard boiled egg or chicken can add a bit of protein to the diet. They are said to love moths, too.

Supplements:

Flying squirrels are susceptible to calcium deficiency, so a supplement of calcium and vitamin D3 (important in calcium metabolism) should be used on their food, and items high in phophorous should be limited. A calcium block or cuttlebone should also be provided in the cage, along with a mineral block.

Housing:

Since Southern flying squirrel are not large they can make do with a fairly small cage, but to thrive they need room to run and climb. Vertical space is more important than floor space though, so a tall cage is best. A cage designed for sugar gliders can work well, as long as the spacing in the mesh is narrow (1/2 inch by 1 inch at most). Some owners find that a homemade cage works well too. Keep in mind that Southern flying squirrels are excellent chewers, so make sure they cannot chew their way out of their cage (any wood or plastic should be covered with wire). Floor space of 2 feet by 2 feet is adequate, but the taller the cage, the better.

Provide branches in the cage, for both climbing and chewing. Cotton ropes hung in the cage also provide opportunity for climbing and play. Nest boxes should be provided along with facial tissues or paper towel for nesting material (avoid anything with threads that could wrap around and damage a leg). The bottom of the cage can be lined with bedding or litter appropriate for rodents (i.e. no cedar shavings - see Top Alternatives to Cedar Shavings for advice).

Water should be provided in a shallow open bowl. Southern flying squirrels have been known to have problems with sipper tubes on water bottles.

As mentioned above, branches can be used as chew toys, as can wood pieces, wood parrot toys, etc. Whole, hard shelled nuts also provide chewing opportunities as well as being tasty treats.

A running wheel is also recommended for exercise. A solid surface wheel such as the Wodent Wheel is the safest choice.

A good source of information about keeping flying squirrels as well as a place to connect with other owners is the National Flying Squirrel Association site.

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