Photo: Chris Kelly
Scientific Name: Glaucomys volans
Classification: Small game
Abundance: Found throughout NC
Species Profile (PDF)
Southern flying squirrel (Photo by Leah)
Southern flying squirrel (Photo by Judy Frederick)
Southern flying squirrel (Photo by Amy Scott)
Trill of a southern flying squirrel. The southern flying squirrel's trill usually has four syllables or less per second. Biologists can easily distinguish the southern flying squirrel's trill from the rarer northern flying squirrel's trill, which has eight syllables per second.
This diminutive rodent with the big saucer-like eyes is probably the most common mammal never seen by humans in North Carolina. It occupies habitat similar to that of the gray squirrel and, to a lesser extent, the fox squirrel, yet because it is a nocturnal species, it is not seen as often as the other two.
The southern flying squirrel is smaller than its northern cousin and ranks as the smallest of the state’s 5 tree squirrel species, which include the red squirrel, fox squirrel and gray squirrel. It weighs no more than 2 or 3 oz. and measures from 8 1/2 in. to 9 7/8 in., including a 3- to 4-inch-long tail. Its fur is a lustrous light brown and its belly is a creamy white. This squirrel’s most distinctive feature is the cape of loose skin that stretches from its wrists to its ankles and forms the membrane on which it glides. The membrane is bordered in black. When the squirrel stretches its legs to their fullest extent, the membrane opens and supports the animal on glides of considerable distance.
During surveys, biologists use the southern flying squirrel’s shorter head to tail length, shorter hind foot length (<33mm), and uniform creamy-white belly hair coloring to distinguish it from the rarer Carolina northern flying squirrel, which is larger overall and has bicolored belly hairs.
Flying squirrels produce a birdlike chirping sound. Some of their vocalizations are not audible to the human ear.
For more information read the Southern Flying Squirrel species profile.
The southern flying squirrel is a nongame species with no hunting or trapping season.
Southern flying squirrels are also known to take up residence in attics of suburban and rural residences.
Although they can make quite a racket, they don’t generally pose any significant problems for the homes they occupy. However, there are many nonlethal and humane exclusion techniques that can be used to evict the squirrels.
Learn more by visiting our "Have a Wildlife Problem-Tips for Coexisting with Wildlife" webpages.
Southern flying squirrels are periodically encountered by NCWRC biologists during surveys for red-cockaded woodpeckers in the Sandhills. They are occasionally captured incidentally in squirrel boxes or traps during surveys for the rarer Carolina northern flying squirrel, particularly in the mountains where their ranges overlap. This species does quite well in a variety of habitats and, in general, populations seem to be stable and/or expanding in some areas. In fact, where the two species overlap, southern flying squirrels may actually out-compete northern flying squirrels for available resources. NCWRC biologists are considering management strategies that favor northern flying squirrels and discourage southern flying squirrel encroach ment in appropriate habitat at elevations above 4500 ft.
Southern flying squirrel species profile (PDF)
Wildlife Diversity Program Quarterly Reports
Protected Wildlife Species of North Carolina Listings (PDF)