Flying squirrels are one of the two squirrel species in Georgia (the other is the gray squirrel) that account for most of our residential and commercial squirrel-removal work in and around Athens.
The term "flying squirrel" is a bit inaccurate. Flying squirrels like to think that they can fly, but they really can't. They can't take off, climb, or gain altitude; nor can they perform complex maneuvers in the air. What they can do is glide from a high place to a lower place and land with great accuracy exactly where they want to, enabling them to get into houses even when there's no easy way to climb up.
Flying squirrels have this ability because of a part of their bodies called the patagium, which is a membrane between their front and rear legs. It provides a rudimentary "wing" that enables them to glide. Their tails are also adapted to flying, being shaped in such a way as to form a "rudder" that helps them to steer in flight. Their feet are also adapted to landing on vertical surfaces -- something even most birds can't do.
On average, flying squirrels can achieve glide ratios of almost two to one, meaning that the average flying squirrel can travel almost twice as far horizontally as it loses altitude vertically. But because they don't have real wings nor the ability to flap them rapidly enough to generate enough lift to overcome their relatively heavy body mass, they can't take off from the ground nor gain altitude.
Nonetheless, the ability to glide gracefully and accurately gives flying squirrels a big advantage. It enables them to travel from high places like tree tops without having to worry about cats and other predators who might consider them a tasty snack if they had to scamper along on the ground. Instead, flying squirrels can spend most of their lives aloft, easily evading both terrestrial and arboreal predators.
Being much smaller than gray squirrels, flying squirrels can also fly onto buildings and enter them through very small holes or openings. Once they're inside, flying squirrels cause similar sorts of problems as their earthbound cousins. They poop and pee all over the place, tear up and damage stored products, damage insulation and HVAC ducts, and create fire hazards by gnawing through the insulation on electrical wiring. They also carry parasites, some of which can transmit diseases; and their droppings can serve as a breeding medium for disease-causing fungi. Obviously they're not the kind of guests you want living in your home.
Flying squirrels are rodents in the squirrel family, Sciuridae. There actually are are two species of flying squirrels in the United States: the Northern flying squirrel and the Southern flying squirrels. The two species are very similar, and some scientists wonder whether they should be considered two different species at all rather than strains of the same specie.
In any event, the flying squirrels we get in Athens and most of the South are, appropriately enough, Southern flying squirrels, Glaucomys volans. Southern flying squirrels in the wild live in cavities in any kind of trees, unlike their Northern cousins who only live in conifer forests. As human development has reduced the size of forests, however, they have adapted to living in buildings, usually in attics and soffits. Keeping flying squirrels out of those attics and soffits is very challenging because of their small size and ability to glide.
A flying squirrel's diet is a lot like that of mice. They eat nuts, seeds, fruits, and fungi. On occasion, however, they'll also eat meat such as insects, slugs, snails, and small birds, as well as eggs. Like rodents in general, they hoard food (mainly nuts and seeds) during the warm season and store it away for the winter.
Baby flying squirrels are born in the spring. Their litters range from one to six individuals. Like rodents in general, they are born pink and hairless, with their eyes closed, and are totally dependent on their mothers. Their eyes open in two to three weeks, they start venturing out of the nest at about five or six weeks, are weaned in about two months, and are fully independent at six months. They usually spend their first winters as bachelors sharing a pad with others their own age, and then start their new lives as adults the following spring.
Flying squirrel control can be quite a challenge. Because flying squirrels can glide impressively, they can get into any house that's within range of a higher perch like a tree or a taller building. They can also climb very well when needed, have excellent balance (enabling them to walk along utility wires like other squirrels), and can squeeze through very small openings.
What all this means is that sealing up a house to prevent flying squirrels from getting in is much more difficult that sealing out gray squirrels. Making a house flying squirrel-proof is more similar to a bat-proofing job. That means it requires a very skilled, knowledgeable technician with just enough of a tendency toward OCD to find and seal even the tiniest cracks, holes, and other entry points.
Flying squirrel control also requires specialized equipment, most of it of the elevation sort, such as ladders, scaffolding, and cherry pickers. This is one of the reasons why DIY flying squirrel control almost never works. Without the ability to safely inspect and seal every part of a home to keep flying squirrels out, a flying squirrel exclusion job is almost certainly doomed to fail.
By the way: There's no such thing as a "flying squirrel exterminator." Flying squirrels are classified as "nuisance animals," not "pests," and it is illegal to set poison or lethal traps for flying squirrels. They must be humanely removed and relocated, not killed. Anyone who offers to set poisons or lethal traps for flying squirrels is breaking both federal and Georgia law.
Here are some pictures of flying squirrel removal jobs we've done in the Athens area.
Rid-A-Critter has the tools and personnel to keep flying squirrels out of any home or business, so please call us today.