Southern flying squirrel
The Southern Flying Squirrel is the smallest of all the squirrel species around here. An animal trainer and educator at the Tennessee Aquarium, Susie Grant, said we are not likely to see them out and about in Southeast Tennessee.
"He's got some really big eyes and really big ears. That tells me what he likes to come out at night so he's a nocturnal animal," said Grant.
Grant said they are cavity nesters so during the day they will find a hole or a bird box--basically somewhere safe to go to sleep.
"They don't have true flight like a bird, instad they have more of a glider and they have this really cool flap of skin called a patagium that runs from their wrist all the way down to their ankle. So what they do is run up the tree, jump, and spread their arms and legs out. That stretches out the patagium," said Grant. They look like a gliding kite. This adaptation is critical for survival.
"He's fully grown so when you are only this sized that is snack-sized for a lot of other animals," said Grant. In order to escape, the flying squirrel has to be quick and creative. Grant explained that when they start up 40 to 50 feet in a tree, they can jump about 150 to 200 feet, which is equivalent of jumping over three to four school buses. Flying squirrels hang out in a very strange way, often upside down, because their ankles can roate around 180 degrees. Basically, it looks like their feet are on backwards. The squirrels' claws help them grip the bottom or top of the branch.