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Friday, January 13, 2012

Winter Eco Day #4 - Flying Squirrels Galore!

I'm currently writing this entry at 3:30am in the midst of our overnighter. All night we've been checking our small mammal traps every 2-3 hours. It's been mildly successful even though it's been so mild and wet out! Approximately 21 hours ago, I awoke early to head out to the East Hill Campus where we had small mammal traps set in the trees targeting flying squirrels. I encourage you to read this entry: A Beautiful Morning at the East Hill Campus... It well help to tell the story!

So we arrive at East Hill around 7:30am, and started up the hill. The first trap: SUCCESS! A flying squirrel, which we believe to be of the southern species (Glaucomys volans). Unfortunately for some reason, I don't have pictures of that first little guy. But the NEXT box I got to check, and it was a flyer as well. For anyone who knows me personally...I. Love. Flying. Squirrels. SO cute, resourceful, unique, and common yet unknown.

And here he is! Although our little flyer friends were in a solid box trap, it was raining out...so before they went into the trap to check out the treats inside, they probably got at least a bit wet. Also, often when a wild animal is trapped, it will urinate. Alot. We were guessing alot of this was urine, since while we were holding them, they were urinating.

What I would like to point out in this picture is the width of the whiskers. SUPER long and sensitive. Flyers has what's called "vibrissae" which are extra sensitive nerve bundles found at the base of the whiskers. This helps the squirrel navigate in the night, since it is nocturnal. Other things to observe: nice yellow incisors (a common characterisitic of the Rodentia family, of which this guy belongs), and the large eyes. Large eyes make for wonderful night vision!



Here I am fulfilling something I tend to do when I get to handle wildlife...giving him a smooch! Not really, just pretend :) Next on my bucket list: black bear club!

The northern and southern flying squirrels both are similarly shaded on top, and for the most part...on the bottom as well. The difference between them that I keep reading over and over in field guides is that in the NFS you can part the belly fur (by blowing), and the base of the fur will be dark gray. This seems to be a tried and true method of differentiating the species. Here in NY, we have both in range. There is supposedly a size difference (NFS larger???) but there is so much potential overlap, it could be hard to measure a squirmy flyer. I like the belly fur method.

Big rodent teeth!
Fun fact: These teeth, or the incisors, continually grow throughout life. They need to be maintained by constant gnawing to keep them at a manageable length. The angle at which they meet also self-sharpens them. You can almost see how the bottom incisors can fit in neatly behind the top incisors.

Itty bitty hind squirrel feet! The longer, coarse, dark hair belongs to the alpaca fur we placed in the traps to help insulate the animals in the traps. Cotton balls can be used as well.

Classmate of mine, Petra, handling another trapped squirrel!


Checking out the petagium...the flap of skin between wrist and ankle. VERY interesting!

Unfortunately this little guy looks most pathetic because he's soaked, but seeing the petagium was very cool!

And NOW my friends...I'm off to bed. We just came in from our last trap check of the evening, which was very successful. It is suddenly blizzarding here in the Finger Lakes, so we're soaked, it's 5:30am and I'm off to bed. Good night and another posting will be coming soon!


LATER EDIT: I am posting some of Sasha's pictures from that day! See below :)

Anxiously waiting to open the first trap!

Alicia removing a mouse from a trap with onlooking Clinton Krager and John Van Niel.

Boy and I removing a trap from a tree!

Pixie or Goblet Cup lichen...so delicate!

Clinton and Tiger checking out a mousie!



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