The DenDrey

A Source of Information on Keeping
Companion Southern Flying Squirrels

The Den Drey at Phantom Farm, Long Island, New York

was the home of my companion Southern Flying Squirrels(Glaucomys volans texensis), Mike Robe and Mini Mum, and their pups: Atom, Iota, Mina Scule, Irving Tudarite, Pagan Rich Eual, and Yak. Mike and Mini were born in Texas, under the husbandry of Curt and Judy Howard.  The Howards raised flying squirrels for their exotic pet store, and also shipped pups across the country.  Curt Howard authored a "user friendly" text on the care and husbandry of these delightful creatures,  "Flying Squirrels - King and Queen of the Pet World", helping many to know the pleasure of friendship with the "wee bits of wonderment.".

My first flying squirrel was a gift from the Great Spirit, delivered by way of one of my barn cats.  Named Molly Kule, she was approximately 4 weeks old - her eyes were open, but she still had the disproportionately large head typical of mammal infants.

I kept Molly inside my shirt, next to my skin.  She found the most comfortable place for her to snuggle was at the small of my back.  The warmth and the heartbeat were especially important to Molly, for she had no littermates with her. Because pups spend most of their time sleeping, and because flying squirrels are nocturnal, anyway, I had no trouble going about my daily chores with none the wiser that Molly was with me!

Molly was given KMR, mixed with half and half, as a replacement for her mother's milk. Although it is not the ideal solution (the ideal formula for a squirrel is the natural formula in its natural container!), this diet did work for Molly. Molly's first solid food was a nibble of my shortbread cookie!  When I saw that Molly was interested in solids, she was given pieces of walnut, pecan, and pine nuts, out of the shell, and a hazelnut was kept on hand for Molly to gnaw.  Like all rodents, flying squirrels' incisors have open roots, and never stop growing.  Without a hard surface to gnaw, a rodent's teeth become too long, and can cause significant health risks.

Molly's time with me was cut short by a tragic accident, but she remains in my heart. Until I'd met Molly, I had no idea that flying squirrels were so common, in the wild.  Neither did I know that they were kept for centuries as household pets.  A well known painting by the early American portrait artist, John Singleton Copley, portrays Copley's stepbrother, Henry Pelham, with his pet flying squirrel - likely Glaucomys volans volans, the subspecies of Southern flying squirrel found in the Northeast USA.  Molly was also G.v.v.

When I found that Parrots of the World, a well-respected pet store on L.I., was bringing in several litters of flying squirrel pups from the Howards' breeding programme, I decided to bring two pups home, and took a male and female, thinking the pups a tad too mature to develop the tight bond that I enjoyed with Molly.  I was mistaken.  Although Mike and Mini were not dependent upon me for company, they were as friendly as was Molly, and included me in their squirrel games & affections.  Mini was an especially generous and gracious momma, allowing me contact with her pups from an early age, with no aggression at all.

Mike and Mini produced their first two pups, Atom and Iota, on St. Valentine's day, 2001. Their second litter, of three (two boys who now live with the programme director at a BOCES Outdoor Environmental Education Center, and a girl, Mina Scule) was born just twelve weeks later, on May 15th.  This year, 2002, Mini produced three boys on January 10th.  Yak, Pagan and Irving remain with me, and I delight in the company of the little fairy diddles during the day, and enjoy playing "Squirrel Tag", "Hide and Go Seek Skwerl", and watching the family play "Hide the Hazelnut, Pilfer the Pecan, and Pocket the Pine Nuts" during the evening.

I didn't keep my friends caged, but instead made the den "flyer safe".  They could be closed into the Den Drey closet, if needed, for housekeeping purposes, but for the most part, housekeeping is fairly simple.  Flying squirrels do not "perfectly" litter train, but they do tend to use one area, mostly, to urinate.  Thus, lining that part of the closet with paper make it easy to keep the den presentable! Beyond that, a weekly vacuuming, done while the wee ones are sleeping, did just fine.

Fast forward a few years ... I found the taxes and traffic on Long Island too much to bear.  I packed up my possessions, and my wonderful companion animals (which, in 2003, included an orphan raccoon - as well as my flyer family, my horses, my cats and my Eastern cottontail, Ahab), and moved to a less congested and more moderately taxed area of the Mid Atlantic.  Our new home is called the Elk River Ranch (and Raccoon Refuge), and all of my companions have settled in well.  Sadly, Mini Mum passed away two years ago, in her 6th year.  In the natural setting, a flying squirrel is fortunate to make it to its third year.  While there are individual flyers that enjoy long (10 years or more) lives, the average for a companion flyer is about 7 to 8 years.  Mini's passing was 'uneventful' - she was fine, one evening - but 'gone' in the morning, with no evidence of any trauma.  She was loved, and is missed.  Who can ask more of life than a safe and comfortable existence, and a speedy return to the Great Spirit, when one's time comes?

The basic diet of a flying squirrel consists of hard shelled nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, and fresh fruit that is found in the natural range of this species of Sciuridae (apple, pear, peach, orange, and berries).  I also give them fresh spring salad greens, and fresh veggies.  Occasionally, they get a small bit of boiled egg. They also get protein from wax worms, commercially available to the pet trade.  Their diet is supplemented with liquid vitamins formulated for small mammals.  They have a calcium block, and a salt wheel, available for them at all times.

They are remarkably trouble free pets, but need a vitamin D3 source, for they are nocturnal.  Without the advantage of sunlight, they are not able to produce Vit.D3, required for calcium absorption.  Without the addition of Vit D3, these little squirrels are noted for developing "rickets".  Untreated, this condition can bring an early, untimely death.

In the spring, I bring the little ones sugar maple twigs and blossoms.  Later in the season, I bring them honeysuckle and blueberry blossoms.  In the fall, I collect white oak acorns and hickory nuts for my flyers.

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