provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife
All over the world there are over 200 different species of arboreal and ground-dwelling squirrels. In the United States, there are about 65 species of squirrel. The squirrels often admitted to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife include the familiar Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), the Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans), and the Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) which contains two subspecies, the Big Cypress Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger avicennia) and the Sherman’s Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger shermani).
The Eastern Gray Squirrel is likely the most recognizable squirrel species in the United States. They are native to eastern North America and have a widespread range. The gray squirrel has been described as the most prodigious and ecologically essential natural forest regenerator. They serve an important role in forest ecosystems since their seed-caching activities help to plant seeds for future trees to grow. In preparation for colder weather, gray squirrels will bury their seeds for later. They obviously cannot find every single seed or nut they have buried which then contributes to new forest growth.
Though their name suggests they fly through the air, it would be more accurate to refer to southern flying squirrels as “gliding squirrels” since they don’t actually fly! Flying squirrels have a special membrane called patagia stretching from the arms to the legs which acts like a parachute as they glide between trees. They will launch themselves from a branch and spread out their limbs to expose the membrane. In mid-air they will use slight movements to steer and their tail acts as a brake upon reaching their destination. At times a single glide can be over 150 feet. Flying squirrels can be found throughout the eastern United States all the way from Maine to Florida. Often making their homes in tree cavities, nest boxes, and abandoned nests, they will live in small colonies to keep warm in the winter. Interestingly enough, humans have tried to replicate the gliding abilities of a flying squirrel with inventions like base jumping and skydiving suits.
The Sherman’s Fox Squirrel is one of the larger species of squirrel weighing between one and three pounds. It is a native species to Florida and Southern Georgia. Identifiable by their black head with white ears and nose, but there is possibility for color variations ranging from black to silver. They are commonly found in areas with longleaf pines and sandhill habitats. Their diet consists of fruits, nuts, seeds, and their choice favorite, pine seeds! Much of this squirrel’s habitat has been lost due to increased human development and deforestation. Due to habitat loss, these squirrels are protected throughout Florida with laws prohibiting the hunt or capture of them.
On Nov. 24, three Southern Flying Squirrels (#21-5932, 5933, 5934) and a Sherman’s Fox Squirrel (#21-5937) were admitted after being found alone. The three flying squirrels were found to be apparently healthy overall. The sibilings will be put on a feeding plan to be raised under squirrel protocol until they are old enough to be released. The Sherman’s fox squirrel was admitted after it was found alone. Veterinarians noted it was cold and severely dehydrated. It was put on a feeding plan and will continue under supportive care until it is old enough to be released.
Birds can’t pick up their babies and put them back in the nest, but squirrels can. Think you found an orphaned squirrel? First, contact your nearest wildlife rehab center and explain the specific situation for advice on how to proceed. If the squirrel has no aparant injuries and looks as if it has been fed recently, place a cardboard box with a small entrance hole at the base of the nearest tree, give it some distance, and keep an eye out for mom’s return. If mom hasn’t returned, please notify your nearest wildlife rehabilitator for assistance! Wild mothers are always the best chance a wild baby has at survival, wildlife rehab centers are the last chance! If you care, please leave it there (under the appropriate circumstances, of course).
If you find a baby animal and are concerned, please call us at CROW at 239-472-3644 before trying to help. We will be happy to give you some tips on how to determine if a young animal may be truly orphaned and in need of help, or if Mother Nature has the situation under control.
THIS WEEK AT CROW (11/19-11/26):
There were 108 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 16 eastern cottontail rabbits, 11 double-crested cormorants, seven laughing gulls, five Virginia opossums, three southern flying squirrels, two anhingas, an American oystercatcher, an eastern screech owl, a great horned owl, a sharp-shinned hawk, and a Sherman’s fox squirrel. Recent Releases include a double-crested cormorant, two anhingas, three eastern cottontail rabbits, a red-shouldered hawk, and a brown pelican. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases.
Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year.
Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center, 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.
About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond. Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.
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