Flying squirrels are a protected animal in Florida because of laws that work to prevent Florida's natural resources from abuse. As a result, many poachers grab them to sell on the international market. This is because they are a popular pet to have in Asia, so capturing these squirrels for sale is a lucrative, albeit illegal, business.
Recently, poachers were caught with over 3500 flying squirrels to sell for about 1 million dollars on the market. So what are flying squirrels, and why do they need to be protected?
Physical Description and Behavior
This cute little guy is only a few inches long. They have darker brown fur on their back with a more cream-colored fur on their belly. They are a nocturnal species that is also omnivorous. They eat mainly fruits and nuts from trees but have been known for eating mushrooms, insects, carrion, flowers, and bird eggs.
Their most fascinating feature is the fact that they have flaps of skin connecting their hands and feet that they can use to glide from tree to tree. While they may be called the "flying squirrel" they do not actually fly. They can even turn up to 90 degrees in the air to avoid obstacles on the way down from a tree.
Fun fact: while they can glide gracefully, the flying squirrel is very clumsy when it comes to walking. As a result, if it is on the ground when a predator comes by, it will hide instead of trying to run away.
Habitat and Location
These squirrels live in deciduous forests or mixed forests, preferring hickory and beech trees above all. They live in some parts of Mexico but mainly live in Central to the Eastern United States. This goes as far south as Florida to as far north as the coasts of Canada.
They are considered to be of Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List but are still a protected class in some areas due to poaching. That said, their population does seem to be relatively stable despite all of this.
To learn more about flying squirrels, check out this video about them below: