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This Week’s Creature Feature: Southern Flying Squirrel

This nocturnal neighbor hides in plain sight in our own back yards

     Squirrels are acrobats. Maryland’s common eastern gray squirrels run utility-line tightropes, scamper up giant trees and leap branch to branch, heedless of the void of space beneath them.
      But gliding through the air with the greatest of ease is beyond them. The master of that feat is the southern flying squirrel. That squirrel, too, lives among us, but not so flagrantly as the gray squirrel, whose territory is our territory and whose sustenance is our bird food.
       The flying squirrel is not only much smaller than its common cousin — two to four ounces compared to up to a pound and a half — but also nocturnal. So they might be night gliding through your trees — buoyed by the patagium or furry fold of skin stretching from the wrist of each front leg to the ankle of each rear leg — while you sleep in ignorance.
      So maybe insomnia troubled the flying squirrel seen and photographed climbing a tree in the light of day by Brian Eric Williams at Captain Avery Museum in Shady Side.
      Facebook commentators soon pointed out that Williams’ sighting was not unique. 
     “Have one in my backyard in Avalon Shores,” wrote one person.
      “I’ve had them in my backyard for years. They eat out of my bird feeders, fly from tree to tree and dive-bomb me at my picnic table while I’m eating late-night crabs,” added Andrew Och. 
      Yes, flying squirrels, especially females, can be territorial, according to Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and “will often aggressively defend prime nesting areas.”
      Seen a flying squirrel? Send your photos to ­[email protected]