Southern Flying Squirrels in Arlington, VA (update)

This is an update on a previously described site. From mid-November to late-February habituated Southern Flying Squirrels continue to be seen at the Long Branch Nature Center, Glencarlyn Park, Arlington, Virginia. In the past, up to a dozen per night were possible. The arrival of Barred Owls as permanent residents has decreased that; 3 to 6 would be a more expected amount now, but seems a stable number.

They come to the trees by the bird feeders in front of the Nature Center because every two weeks there is an evening program and peanut butter and nuts are put out then. These events are popular and should be booked in advance online if you’re coming, but you can see the squirrels on your own before the program starts, and, possibly, on other, non-event nights.

Population density (the rangers claim) matches that of the diurnal gray squirrels; in theory spotlighting the trees at night away from the observation deck would get you this species, though my brief attempt on the way out to the road didn’t turn any up. The park is closed after dark, but I don’t think that is strictly enforced. There are no locked gates that I saw.

The mid-winter dates happen in response to the pre-event baiting the naturalists carry out (the put out peanut butter on some non-event nights leading up to the scheduled Saturday night talks) and because reduced territoriality makes the squirrels more social then. I also assume leafless trees make them easier to spot mid-glide. Cuteness is right up there with sea otters, or more so—they almost go “splat” as they land, and they scamper and launch with manic glee. The Nature Center has an elderly but tame flying squirrel they bring out during the talk, in case you want to stroke the silky fur.

This site is half an hour from Washington D.C. and I came and went easily by Uber. On a slightly unrelated note, there’s a charming painting of a pet flying squirrel in the collection of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston. By John Singleton Copley, it dates from 1765 and can be seen with this link:

http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/a-boy-with-a-flying-squirrel-henry-pelham-34280

Charles Hood, Palmdale, CA, chood@avc.edu

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