Can a squirrel really fly?

          The squirrel is a familiar animal seen most everywhere. It is an animal found in every part of the world, except Australia. There are about 320 kinds of squirrels all over the world. They may be as large as cats or as small as mice. They can be divided into two general groups – the ground squirrel and the tree squirrel. Apart from these, there are flying squirrels too.

          Most people think of squirrels as a kind of rodent that is good at climbing. The tree squirrels have a long bushy tail that helps them to steer and keep their balance. They can leap 3 metres to reach from one tree to another. The woodchuck, marmot, chipmunk and prairie dog are the tree squirrels.

          Flying squirrels jump 10 times farther than that. These little creatures have flaps of skin between their front and back legs. These flaps form a parachute when a flying squirrel jumps and spreads its limbs. This helps it to glide through the air. If attacked in the mid-air by an enemy like the owl it turns back immediately to the tree and protects itself by hiding in the tree trunk. They have soft fur and large eyes and are 8 to 60 cm (3 to 24 inches) in length exclusive of tail. They live on trees and unlike other squirrels they seldom come to the ground. They are nocturnal animals and can see clearly in the dark. They can glide up to 60 m. The flying squirrel, like the tree squirrels, feed on leaves, twigs or seeds.

          There are about 35 species of flying squirrels known to man today. They are found in North America, Africa, Europe and some parts of Asia. We scarcely get to see them because they usually sleep during the day.