Wintertime visitors to my shed

Published 4:54 pm Friday, December 4, 2020

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By John Bunch

Virginia Master Naturalist

With the advance of colder temperatures and the risk of snakes lurking about coming to a close for the year, I can look for flying squirrels to set up housekeeping in my backyard shed. Most people don’t want any kind of rodent living in their shed, but there’s just something about these cute little creatures that are irresistible to me. I set up a feeding station on a shelf in there and place food out on a daily basis just as I do for the birds in the yard.

Due to the nocturnal nature of flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans), they are rarely seen, leading one to conclude that they are not very common. But it is said that if you have gray squirrels, then you probably have flying squirrels. Of course, these little guys don’t actually fly, but rather glide by means of stretching their legs out enabling a fold of loose skin to tighten and create a sort of parachute. Their tail is flat and feathery making it a very effective rudder while in flight.

I have a little box with nesting material in it which they readily take to. The food for them that I keep in the shed, ranges from dry dog food to bird seed to different types of nuts and it is kept in a glass jar with a metal lid. The container type is important because in the early days of feeding them I kept the food in a plastic container. Well, it didn’t take them long to gnaw through that container to the food. If I wait until late afternoon for feeding and shake the jar before putting out the food so as to create a distinctive noise, it doesn’t take them long to emerge for dinner. And they’re very sociable with one another while eating. There is no fussing or fighting over who gets what like so many other animals are prone to do.

My feeding activity continues through the winter for them, but with the advance of warming temperatures in the early spring, it will abruptly stop. You see, the Black Rat snakes emerge from their hibernation and the squirrels want no part of that, so off they go to their safer summer digs in the trees.

And one other thing to add about these cute little creatures: they softly glow pink under a black light. What’s up with that?!