Overview of Flying Squirrels
The two species of New World flying squirrels are Southern Flying Squirrels (Glaucomys volans) sometimes known as Eastern Flying Squirrels, and the less commonly seen Northern Flying Squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus). They are both found in the wild in North America and have similar care requirements in captivity.
Northern Flying Squirrels are the larger at 25-37 cm with dark belly hair tipped with white. The smaller Southern Flying Squirrels measure around 21-25cm and are more commonly seen for sale by private breeders although both have high price tags as not many seem to be breeding readily in the UK. It has been suggested that this may be due to a need to breed communally, although some keepers have had success with 1:1 pairings.
Although not quite to the same extent as Jerboas it is important to source your squirrels carefully from reputable breeders and to avoid encouraging wild caught animals. No pet should be obtained at the expense of wild populations.
Flying Squirrels can glide using a furred membrane known as patagium which extends between the wrists of the front feet and the ankles of the hind feet. Since distances have been recorded at up to 45m although between 5-25 is more normal, it is important to give these animals as much space as possible so your pet flying squirrels are happy. A large aviary environment is ideal, although a very large viviarum could potentially be adapted by adding additional ventilation. See Flying Squirrel - Environment for more details.
A Flying Squirrels Diet is less complicated that the more fruit-based sugar gliders, but still requires a varied range of seeds, nuts, fresh and protein and a calcium supplement.
Flying Squirrels as pets are very active, curious little rodents who will enjoy exploring your house and you. Providing you have squirrel proofed your house, in much the same way as you would for a pair of Sugar Gliders then free-ranging your flying squirrels is recommended each night. You will need a good bond with your flying squirrel to be able to capture them again, although some individuals may chose to return to their aviary if the door is simply left open.
Flying Squirrels are a big commitment given they may live up to 15 years, need a large habitat, constant handling and any vet bills could be very high. They are very active and can bond quite closely with their owner. Bonding to your flying squirrel is best done whilst young, and bonding pouches are very useful for this. Although many flying squirrels are born in large, communal aviaries they should be able to be tamed providing you are prepared to research and spend a regular amount of time with them.