HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a… flying squirrel in North Alabama?
When most Alabamians think of squirrels, the picture that’s likely to come to mind is a small, greyish-brown rodent with a bushy tail, but not the ability to glide. The same can’t be said for the southern flying squirrel, the only flying squirrel species found in the state of Alabama.
According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), the southern flying squirrel can be found statewide, as well as across the eastern United States, with the exception of the New England states.
Why aren’t they seen more often here in the Yellowhammer State? ADCNR says they aren’t spotted on a regular basis because they’re most active at nighttime. The department said the squirrels’ numbers are stable and possibly increasing in North America.
Despite its name, the southern flying squirrel doesn’t actually fly.
A more appropriate name, according to the National Wildlife Foundation (NWF), would be the “gliding squirrels.” The creatures have a special membrane in their front and hind legs that give them the ability to glide through the air between trees.
NWF says the southern flying squirrel can “fly” up to 150 feet in a single glide.
The species is also the smallest of all three tree squirrels found in Alabama, measuring from eight to 10 inches and weighing just two to four ounces. In comparison, the more common gray squirrel can range from 16 to 20 inches long and weigh up to 1.5 pounds.
Learn more about the southern flying squirrel and other creatures native to Alabama and its surrounding states at outdooralabama.com/wildlife.