Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel
By: Sydney Gray
About the Northern Flying Squirrel
Another name for the Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel is the Glaucomys Sabrinus. Northern flying squirrels are about one-third larger than the very common southern species. Also, northern flying squirrels are brown on their backs, and their fur fades to a buff white on the belly. Flying squirrels are nocturnal and have large eyes to help them see at night. They cannot actually fly, but glide by extending a fold of skin that stretches from their wrists to their ankles. The flattened tail acts as a rudder. Carolina northern flying squirrels are relicts of the last ice age. As the glaciers retreated northward and temperatures rose, remnant populations remained in the suitable habitat left behind on the high mountain tops along the ridges of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
Northern flying squirrels are typically found in areas where northern hardwoods, such as Yellow birch, are adjacent to the higher-elevation Red spruce-Fraser fir forest. These habitats are often moist and cool. Southern flying squirrels are most often found in the warmer and drier mixed oak-pine forests of lower elevations. Most of this species lives in the Mountain region.
Why is it in Danger?
The limited and discontinuous range of this sub-species in the Southern Appalachians makes it vulnerable to a number of natural and human-related impacts. Human impacts far outweigh natural threats and include habitat destruction and fragmentation or other alterations associated with the clearing of forests, introduced exotic pests, recreational and residential development, and pollution (heavy metals and acid rain).
Volunteers are needed to help biologists check squirrel boxes for the endangered Car olina northern flying squirrel each winter. Squirrels are captured, measured, marked, and released as part of this monitoring project. This project requires a full day in the field, and the abilities to hike in steep, slippery terrain, work in extreme cold weather, and haul heavy equipment. Contact NCWRC for information.