They are the cute fuzzy critters that invade our yards, steal the food from our bird feeders and dig multitudes of nut-size holes in our lawns. While some love to watch these agile creatures as they scoot from tree to tree in amazingly graceful form, others despise their destructive antics.
No matter how you feel about squirrels, in Tampa Bay they are here to stay from the coastal areas to inland habitats - basically anywhere there are tall trees where they make their nests. Common squirrels are the Eastern Gray Squirrel (found virtually everywhere) and the Fox Squirrel (a rare species found mostly in pinelands).
Another breed that is fairly common in Tampa Bay but not so easily seen is the Southern Flying Squirrel. These nocturnal squirrels are small - only 8"-10" long - with large eyes and a broad flat tail. They are light brown with a white underside and have a loose flap of skin called a "gliding membrane" along each side of their body that acts as a sail to help them leap from tree to tree, making them appear to be "flying." They have very large eyes that help them see better at night when they are active.
Flying squirrels live in cavities in mature oak, hickory, maple or other hardwood trees in both urban and rural areas, but will also take up residence in purple martin houses. They are often found in pairs or, during winter, denning together with several other flying squirrels. To attract flying squirrels, nest boxes should be placed 8-10 feet above the ground on tree trunks.
Southern Flying Squirrels forage for acorns, hickory nuts, pecans, insects, bird eggs and nestlings, berries, fruit, seeds, and buds. They are profound nut stashers. Look for them at dusk and throughout the night - you may catch a glimpse as they glide as far as 50 feet through the air!