New England Flying Squirrel Network

Why monitor flying squirrels?

Flying squirrels have not been well studied in New England and we would like to get a better understanding of where both northern and southern flying squirrel populations are residing.  As flying squirrels use gliding to move about from tree to tree, they may be particularly impacted by forest fragmentation and urbanization. Observational data collected by citizen science volunteers will help us to have a better understanding of how these fantastic flyers are fairing.

Have you ever seen a flying squirrel?

You may have flying squirrels living in your back yard, but have never seen them because they are usually only seen at night as they are nocturnal. Flying squirrels are relatively small tree squirrels. There are 2 species of flying squirrels in New England. The larger northern flying squirrel weighs more than 70 grams (Well-Gosling & Heaney, 1984) or just slightly less than a golden hamster or 1 to 2 decks of cards, and the smaller southern flying squirrel weighs less than 80 grams (Dolan & Carter, 1977) or about a half of deck of cards to nearly a full deck. Flying squirrels do not actually fly. They have a flap of skin that runs from the wrist to the ankle called a patagium. This gliding membrane helps them glide from a higher location to a lower location and they can swiftly move from tree to tree this way. The tail is used as a rudder to help them direct where they want to go.  The scientific name for the northern flying squirrel is Glaucomys sabrinus and the southern flying squirrel is Glaucomys volans. You will see the squirrels referred to by their scientific names in the maps below.

Alyssa Bennett, small mammals biologist at Vermont Fish and Game, was featured on WCAX in Vermont talking about NEFSN!  

C.J. Wong was featured on the Blue Marble LIbrarian Blog: Flying Squirrel Citizen Science at Your Library: Magical Realism or Real Magic? 

C.J. Wong was a featured speaker at Denizens of the Dark during Massachusetts STEM Week 2020.  Click here for a recording

Check out NEFSN on SciStarter

Check out NEFSN on Anecdata

Help researchers by collecting data about flying squirrels in your neighborhood: C.J. was interviewed by Sue Pike for Seacoast Online about NEFSN

New England's Flying Squirrel Network: C.J. was interviewed by WBZ and iHeart radio's Nichole Davis.

Have you ever found a nut chewed like this?

Flying squirrels chew their nuts in a peculiar way. They chew a circular pattern as opposed to just ripping them apart. If you find nuts that are chewed like this in your woods, you may have a flying squirrel!

Where are flying squirrels in New England?

There are some recent studies in Maine (O'Connell et al., 2001; Wood et al., 2016) but few recent studies have been done in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, or New Hampshire. To get a more precise location of where people have observed flying squirrels, go to the New World Flying Squirrels map on iNaturalist. iNaturalist is an app that can be used to help people identify species and see where others have had observations.  

What is the historic distribution of flying squirrels in New England?

Museum specimen data can be used to determine where flying squirrels were found in the past. Museum records were mapped using ArcGIS. 

Museum specimen data mapped in ArcGIS. Blue dots are northern flying squirrels and red dots are southern flying squirrels. (Many thanks to my advisor, Dr. Rebecca Rowe, for providing specimen records.)

Do the habitats of the northern and southern flying squirrels differ?

Yes, while both species need mature woodlots, the northern flying squirrel is more commonly identified with forests of mixed deciduous and coniferous trees (Well-Gosling & Heaney, 1984) and often at higher elevations. The southern flying squirrel can be found in forests with deciduous hardwood trees.

How can I get involved with this participatory science project

We are looking for citizen scientists to put up nest boxes and monitor them monthly.  

Researchers are looking for participants to:

Participants should not handle squirrels or other wildlife.

Link to our flyer, please share!