Monday, December 12, 2011

My flying squirrel is off to the taxidermist!

Back in late September/early October, my mom called to tell me she had found "something" in the backyard, probably killed by the cats. She thought it was a flying squirrel, but wasn't sure. Well, as it turns out it was! And ironically, this semester I was working on a hypothetical Wildlife Management Plan for the Camp Warren Cutler in Naples, FOR the Northern flying squirrel. We have both the N & S flying squirrel species in NY, but this one I found I believe is the Northern. The way to tell is to blow into their belly fur. A NFS will have buff colored fur on its underside, but when the hairs are seperated, the base of the hairs are dark gray. A SFS is similar, but buff in color through to the skin. Other people say that there is a size/color difference between N & S, but I think that this can be a very variable way to field ID this squirrel. The belly fur method seems to be more tried and true.

Anyway, my squirrel has 'lived' at FLCC in the specimen freezer since he was found, and today I took him to F.F. Taxidermy in South Bristol, NY. The taxidermist there, Fred, is going to mount him on a chunk of tree for me for $90. Here's a picture of him before:

I know, not exciting or a good picture either. The after photo will be MUCH better, please stay tuned. Anyway, I wanted to give F.F. Taxidermy a plug, since Fred's been very nice, and helpful! He's even going to give me a few skulls for my collection!

I became interested in flying squirrels last spring, when FLCC's The Wildlife Society Club built and hung flying squirrel boxes at the East Hill Campus. We built two models: nest boxes and aggregate boxes. For plans and more information, visit this awesome website! It's been very helpful for our project at East Hill, as well as my in-class management project.

Here are some pictures from the day we built and hung the boxes:

In the foreground, club members Eric and Brian constructing a nest box.

Director of the East Hill Campus and Conservation professor John Van Niel explaining a brief natural history of flying squirrels.

My dear friend Becca hanging a nest box!

Conservation technician Ryan Staychock hanging an aggregate box.

So, that was in March 2011, and on Halloween this fall we went back to check on the status of the boxes. They had been hanging for less than a full year, so we weren't sure what we would find. In several of the boxes, we found nesting material that looked like it could've been brought in by a flying squirrel (we looked it up in several field guides), but who really knows. Also, the holes to the boxes are drilled to very specific sizes, to keep larger animals out, and the holes had been chewed. So that further made us unsure of what had been using them.

But THEN...on our last nest box, SUCCESS! Here is a video of the moment the box was opened.
Please excuse the ending of the video, I was eager to see the squirrel before it got away, and I forgot I was "filming". Cool though, huh? The girl on the ladder is another good friend, Bobbie Jo!
Here are some stills that club member, Adam Rogers took.

Check out that flat tail! It helps them balance, and acts as a rudder when they glide.

We also looked into an aggregate box, that is apoxied shut with silicone, with a "bendy-cable-camera-thing"...not sure of the real term for this type of camera, but it was very cool!

That's John with the camera. I'm sure you can't tell from the poor image quality, but that little monitor is showing the inside of the box. Nothing in there, as to be expected. The aggregate box is used by the squirrels as a place to keep warm in a huddle. I believe how ever many can fit/are comfortable will colonize in these boxes or in natural cavities to keep warm through the winter. As I said earlier, these boxes haven't been up a full year yet, so we were unsurprised to find them vacant.

And that is my flying squirrel post. They deserve MUCH more blogging than I have given them, especially with all the work I've been doing with them in the past year, but it's hard to keep up on all the things I want to write about. For more information about our East Hill Campus Flying Squirrel Adventures, visit John's Blog.

I will post a follow up blog after I get my squirrel back from the taxidermist. Looking forward to it!

My next posting will be all about my camera trapping "kit" that I've put together. Just some helpful things to have on hand when going out to set/check your cameras.


  1. Hi, Alyssa. Great blog post about the flying squirrels. I learned a few things and the stills and video clip are great. Keep it up. I used to work for NYS Parks as an environmental educator, but I am retired now, and I too have a blog and a number of other projects, including a couple of books. Anyway, you may be interested in my own blog called, "Ithaca's Gorges and Cayuga Lake, and the natural heritage of the Finger Lakes region," at Keep up the good work, and the blog. Over the years, I hired a number of students of your caliber to work in our state parks.

  2. Tony, thank you for your kind words. It means alot!!! I will definitely check out your blog, I love to know what's going on in the Finger Lakes! I work at a winery on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail as well, beautiful area :)


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