We love flying squirrels! Because these cuties are nocturnal and aren’t very common in cities and suburbs, many people don’t even realize that they live right here in Tennessee!
We’re actually blessed with not one, but two flying squirrel species. The most common in the state is the Southern flying squirrel, which, as its name suggests, is a resident through much of the Southern U.S and can tolerate warm weather.
The mountainous Eastern part of the state is also home to a small population of Northern flying squirrels, and they really have an amazing history! During the last ice age, the entire Southeast was so chilly that these cold-weather critters were right at home throughout the region. As the glaciers retreated and the South warmed, Northern flying squirrels fled to chilly mountaintops in order to survive in the South.
The Northern flying squirrels living in the mountains of East Tennessee and North Carolina are called Carolina flying squirrels. They’re completely distinct from their Southern cousins and the two can’t breed since their bacula (penis bones) are shaped differently.
Both of Tennessee’s flying squirrel subspecies are facing serious threats. As habitat loss and climate change threaten the landscape, both of these adorable creatures are losing safe grounds for living and breeding. If you’re lucky enough to have flying squirrels living on your land, please treat them kindly! Keep your cats indoors and consider installing nesting boxes to help them find safe places to raise their young.