Two squirrels for the price of one!

Southern flying squirrel
Southern flying squirrel
Courtesy laszlo-photo

Two species of flying squirrel live in North America. The northern squirrel is the slightly larger of the two, measuring 11 inches from nose to the tip of the tail and weighing 4 to 7 ounces. The southern squirrel is about 8 inches long and weighs only 2 to 4 ounces.

Aside from the difference in size, the two species look very much alike. Both have brown to brownish-gray fur and lighter-colored bellies, the southern being a purer white. They have long, flat, tails and prominent ears. Flying squirrels have very large eyes ringed in black fur, the better for seeing at night. (Their Latin name, Glaucomys, means "large-eyed mouse.")

Both species live in forests. The southern flying squirrel prefers woods of deciduous trees—those that drop their leaves in the fall. The northern species inhabits primarily evergreen and mixed forests.

Northern flying squirrel
Northern flying squirrel
Courtesy myke

Northern flying squirrels range throughout most of Canada south of the tree line. They also make their home in southeast Alaska; the northeast and northwest United States; the upper Midwest; and parts of the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. The southern flying squirrel lives throughout much of the US east of the Great Plains, as well as southern Ontario and isolated highlands in Mexico and Central America.

Related species live in Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of these grow very large, reaching nearly two feet in length and weighing slightly more than five pounds.