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Fast Fact: Flying Squirrels

You’ve probably seen gray squirrels and fox squirrels scurrying about our forests and trees, but have you ever seen a flying squirrel? Southern flying squirrels live across Illinois, but we don’t see them very often. This is because they are nocturnal, unlike our more familiar squirrels that are active during the day.

A flying squirrel gliding through the air.
A flying squirrel gliding through the air. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Flying squirrels can’t actually fly like birds do. Instead, they glide through the air. To achieve “flight,” the squirrels have folds of skin that run along the sides of their bodies. When they stretch out their legs, the skin acts like a parachute, allowing them to glide through the air. They can normally “fly” 20 feet to 30 feet at a time but have been recorded covering distances of up to 240 feet. Like other tree squirrels, flying squirrels eat a lot of acorns and other nuts, but they also eat seeds, fruits, mushrooms, insects and bird eggs.

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