Have you ever seen a flying squirrel? I’ve heard that they are the most common squirrel in Ohio, although our experiences with them rarely support that. Seeing them in the wild is rare. They are nocturnal. They are pretty much the exact same color as tree bark. And, they are fast!
But don’t fret. North Chagrin Nature Center has three flying squirrels on display in the Nature Education Building. Stop by on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday between 1 - 4:30 p.m. and you can have a chance to see them up-close.
As a naturalist, caring for captive flying squirrels can be as tricky as spotting them in the wild. Flying squirrels are hole-dwelling squirrels. In the wild they would choose to live in a hollow tree, a bird house or maybe in your attic. About the same size as a chipmunk, they are very adept at finding and getting in tiny spaces. This means that we need to do regular inspections of the squirrel habitat and check for even tiny imperfections where the squirrels might invite themselves into new living space, like into a wall. My own mother teases me that I need to be smarter than the squirrels, but she’s not entirely wrong. We have to think steps ahead of them all of the time!
Although still a new space, the flying squirrels are taking advantage of their new triple-decker squirrel house.
We would love for people to come and see our squirrels out and busy. And, that does happen every now and then. But the reality is that they are quite comfortable cuddled up in their fluffy squirrel nest that has been inside of a wooden bird house. For quite some time only lucky visitors have gotten a glimpse at these cute flyers. Good news! We’ve been hard at work to increase the chance that you’ll be able to see them. A volunteer made them some great new living quarters – with windows! One side of their new house is transparent, so even if they are napping you should be able to see them. We are also working to add enrichment to their space by hiding their favorite foods and adding grape vines and pine bark to explore. We hope these changes will act as invitations to them to explore their space.
Fresh fruits and vegetables not only enrich the squirrels by being hidden throughout their habitat, but they are healthy foods.
We encounter serious challenges, like getting the diets of the squirrels just right and making sure they don’t escape their enclosure. We also encounter challenges that seem to belong on a blooper reel, like the time one of the squirrels thought I was the tree and was climbing all over me. Flying squirrels are unique and amazing creatures that are difficult to experience in the wild. When we do see them out and about in their habitat, they are busy and interesting. I hope you can stop by the Nature Education Building at North Chagrin Nature Center and get to see our squirrely fliers.
Naturalist Jeff Riebe gets a surprise while working in the squirrel habitat. The flying squirrel thinks he makes a great tree to climb!