Watching flying squirrels glide from tree to tree can be an exciting experience for children and adults alike! Flying squirrels are also nicknamed, “Fairy Diddles” because they have magical-like characteristics. But how do you attract flying squirrels to your backyard?
We’ll let you know all of our tips to get them to pay a visit to your yard, along with some additional tips to help you get started. You can begin reading our step by step process below!
Table of Contents
About Flying Squirrels
Despite their name, flying squirrels don’t actually fly; they glide. They have a special skin membrane called the patagium, which extends from their wrists on their front legs to their ankle on their back legs. As the squirrel glides, they also use their tail as a rudder to help stabilize them.
Gliding in a downward position, they have been found to travel a distance of 150 feet. Once they reach their target, flying squirrels will typically scurry around the back of the tree to escape predators.
Flying squirrels have a lifespan of around six years in the wild, and up to fifteen years when living in a zoo.
Where Flying Squirrels Live
Northern flying squirrels are one of two species of flying squirrels that can be found in North America. If you live in Canada, Alaska, North Carolina, Washington, or Utah, then you might be able to spot this type of squirrel in your backyard.
Southern Flying Squirrels live in eastern parts of North America, ranging from Canada all the way to Florida. They’ve also been spotted in Mexico.
Their ranges overlap, but an excellent way to determine which type of flying squirrel is living in your backyard is to look at the trees.
The northern flying squirrel prefers higher elevations with mostly cone-bearing trees such as fir, spruce, and cedar. Southern flying squirrels are more likely to be found in forests with deciduous trees, those with leaves that fall in autumn.
Flying squirrels tend to live inside of dead tree cavities or birdhouses, where they spend much of their time during the day.
How to Identify Flying Squirrels
Flying squirrels look quite different than their non-gliding relatives. The most significant difference between the two is their parachute-like arms.
Like land squirrels, flying squirrels range in colors of gray or brown. On average, they weigh between two and ten ounces. These cute creatures have big, round eyes that almost look like that of a cartoon character.
Researchers have recently discovered that the fur can sometimes glow at night, another reason they are so magical. So, if you see a fluorescent pink glow flying through the trees, you could be looking at a flying squirrel!
Steps to Attract Flying Squirrels
If you think you live in a good location to spot a flying squirrel, you’re already halfway there. Now, you just need to know exactly how to attract a flying squirrel to your backyard.
Step One: Look for Signs
Whether you’ve seen any or not, you may already have flying squirrels gliding around at night right outside your home. Begin by looking for clues that they’ve already visited, and remember this information for later. These are the spots you’ll want to place things like food or homes for them.
If you already have birdboxes, take notice if there is any bark stripped from cedar trees and stuffed inside of them. Another sign you may have had this flying visitor is seeing chewing holes on birdboxes.
Something you may have noticed without realizing is the sound they make at night. No, your forest isn’t haunted. If you hear a high pitch sound coming from the trees in your backyard, this could be a family of flying squirrels talking to each other!
Step Two: Using Food to Attract Them
Flying squirrels are omnivores and eat just about anything you put their way. They munch on similar foods to that of land squirrels. For more information on a squirrel’s diet, read this article.
Generally, you can find flying squirrels snacking on acorns, nuts, berries, and some protein sources. They will even eat bird eggs from time to time.
One great way to attract flying squirrels is to use peanut butter on tree bark. To do this, simply spread some peanut butter on parts of the trees you think flying squirrels may be at. As a bonus, add in some bits of sunflower seeds to make it even more appetizing.
Step Three: Strategically Place Feeders
You can use a bird feeder or a feeder designed specifically for squirrels. Fill the feeder with the desired food, and then hang it from the branches where flying squirrels are likely at. Think back to any signs you may have spotted from step one.
Try a few different locations and try to be patient. It may take days, weeks, or months to see a flying squirrel, especially if they aren’t already hanging out in your yard.
Step Four: Create Nest Boxes
Flying squirrels are cavity nesters, so make it easy for them to find a space to cozy up inside.
Most squirrels can be perfectly happy residing in a bird box. For the most accurate sizing, use a nest box that is at least 7×7″ on the bottom and at least 8-10″ in height. The entrance hole should be at least 1.25″ to accommodate a Southern flying squirrel or 1.50″ for a Northern flying squirrel.
You can place the enclosure 10′ or higher if you like, but flying squirrels can be seen in lower locations as well. No matter where you hang it, ensure that it is as safe from predators as possible. Mount them on a pole rather than a tree, if possible.
If you’re lucky, you may just catch a flying squirrel relaxing in the new home! Just be careful when checking for them, as they may bite!
Other Tips to Consider
Attract Flying Squirrels During the Right Seasons
While flying squirrels aren’t technically nocturnal, they are less active during the colder months. To stay warm, flying squirrels huddle together in groups inside of their nests. They’ll spend even more time in their nest when conditions are too harsh.
To prep for the winter, these nocturnal creatures will start gathering food in the fall. Because of this, they are more active during this time and maybe more easily spotted.
Regardless, flying squirrels can be seen year-round.
Watch During the Right Time of Day
Being nocturnal, your best bet to seeing these magical creatures is at night. You won’t want to use a bright flashlight or any harsh lighting, as it may disturb them. Use a flashlight that’s covered in red cellophane or use a red light bulb in the spotlight.
They are most active two hours after sunset and up to two hours before sunrise. During the day, they will return to their nest to get some rest.
Preserve Dead Trees
While it may be tempting to remove any dead trees found in your backyard, they could be homes to flying squirrels or other animals. As long as these trees aren’t posing a threat to your home or humans, it’s worth considering to keep them around.
Flying squirrels are secondary cavity nesters, meaning they live in holes created by other types of wildlife. Animals tend to live in dead trees, rather than ones that are still living. It’s pretty common for these little creatures to huddle up inside of a dead tree to stay warm during winter.
Preventing Flying Squirrels From Coming Inside
The only potential downside to attracting flying squirrels is the possibility of them getting inside your home. When temperatures drop, they will sometimes sneak inside and live in your walls or attic.
To prevent this from happening, investigate your home for any potential entrances these rodents could sneak into. Look closely to make sure there aren’t any small holes or cracks they could slip into.
Screen any vents, openings, or chimneys to keep them from venturing in that way. Also, cut back limbs 6-8′ from your roof so it stays out of their path.
If you follow the steps and advice above, you just may be lucky enough to see one of these magnificent, gliding creatures. Because flying squirrels are nocturnal if you do happen to see one consider yourself lucky! Many people do not get to experience this since they are likely in bed when the action is happening.
Now that you know exactly how to attract flying squirrels into your backyard, you can go outside and get started to give these creatures a place to nest and some food to snack on, and they’ll soon be happily living in your backyard!