An amazing array of unusual small mammals have long been bred in captivity and sold within a rather small circle of exotic pet enthusiasts. Some, such as Fennec Foxes and Bennett’s Wallabies, are suitable only for well-experienced keepers with ample room and resources while others, including Servals and Coatimundis, can be downright dangerous and are best enjoyed in zoos or the wild. Today I’d like to introduce an animal that, while not suitable as a “first-time pet”, is a great choice for experienced hobbyists looking to expand their pet-keeping horizons. I’ll cover captive care in greater detail in future articles and move on to Sugar Gliders, Degus, Hedgehogs and Spiny Mice in Part 2.
Note: Be sure to check your state’s laws regarding exotic pets…please write in if you need help in locating this information.
It is imperative that you locate an experienced exotic mammal veterinarian before deciding to keep any of the animals mentioned below. You should also consult with your family doctor regarding any potential health hazards.
Northern and Southern Flying Squirrels
I’ve worked with mammals ranging from shrews to elephants, but the Flying Squirrel is my hands-down favorite pet. My first pair arrived via mail (courtesy of my animal-enthusiast Grandfather) from the now-defunct Flying “J” Flying Squirrel Ranch, and I was hooked. I later raised several litters uncovered during tree-trimming operations along the Bronx River (yes, they live in NYC!) and had great luck in breeding them. Their descendants can be seen today in an exhibit at the Bronx Zoo’s Mouse House.
Flying Squirrels are as close to “naturally tame” as a wild animal can get. Although they must be handled with care, most respond amazingly well to the right touch – I’ve tamed wild-caught adults within a week of their capture (try that with a Gray Squirrel!). Long-term pets will seek out treats hidden in your pockets and are very content to nap there as well.
Flying Squirrels are on the go all night and require large, vertically-oriented cages; being quite cold-hearty, also do fine in outdoor aviaries. Among the most social of squirrels, they are best kept in pairs or small groups…I’ve housed multiple breeding pairs together without incident.
Unfortunately for most folks, Flying Squirrels are persistently nocturnal – they will often accept a daytime snack, but return to sleep as soon as they are finished. They do, however, adjust well to night-viewing bulbs…without question, their antics are well-worth staying up for.
Flying Squirrels readily accept commercial rat and mouse diets, but require a good amount of additional protein in the form of hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, mealworms and canned insects; a cooked chicken bone with a bit of meat left on is a much-favored treat. Acorns, fruit tree buds, tree fungi and apples and other fruits are also relished.
In Japan, I was thrilled to see the species resident near Tokyo, which is the size of a house cat! It is, however, dwarfed by the Woolly Flying Squirrel – a nearly 4-foot-long beast, once believed extinct, that glides from rock to rock in the Himalayan Mountains!
This amazing video shows what’s in store for those lucky enough to attract Flying Squirrels to outdoor feeders
Flying Squirrel image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Angie Spuc