They only come out at night

Object of the Month: 02/2008

What is it?:

Northern flying squirrel and southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus and Glaucomys volans)

Where was it collected:

Koochiching Co., Minnesota, August 1999 and Wadena Co., Minnesota, October 2003

Accession #: Specimen no. Z99:4 and Specimen no. RJO-M519

Flying squirrels
Flying squirrelsCourtesy SMM

A thumping across the rooftops at midnight. A soft whistle on the night air. You search in the morning for your nighttime visitor and find…nothing. A spirit on the wind? Close—it was a flying squirrel.

Active at night, flying squirrels glide from tree to tree. They climb high up a trunk and leap off, stretching out their arms and legs. A fold of skin running from wrist to ankle acts like a magic carpet, carrying the rodent 150 feet or more. Then, using its flat tail as a rudder and brake, it swoops upward to land on the next tree.

Many people have never seen these nocturnal creatures (except on TV), and think they are rare. In fact, flying squirrels are quite common in North America, and in some areas may outnumber the more familiar gray squirrel.