Volume 4 • Issue 11 • November 2010

Conservation Report

The Way to Get the Job Done

The more we get out to experience all the beauty that nature has to offer the more opportunities we give ourselves to see something rare and exciting.  Have you ever been hiking through the woods or wading through a stream and noticed a rare species of wildlife, but no one was around to enjoy it with you?  Reporting your uncommon sighting can help contribute to that species very own existence for years to come.  The ODWC now provides a Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Form on the wildlife diversity pages.  Just go to wildlifedepartment.com and follow the wildlife & land mgmt link at the top of the page.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation accepts Rare Wildlife Sighting Report Forms. Be sure to send one in when you view a Texas horned lizard! Photo by Dr. Greg Sievert of Emporia State University.
This unique reporting system will allow the wildlife department along with other agencies the ability to track rare species throughout the state and set management goals accordingly.  The form itself requires several bits of information that will be helpful for documentation and management of rare species throughout Oklahoma.  The species name, habitat it was found in, and how it was identified are just a few.  Having this form available may increase your awareness of rare species and encourage you, next time you set foot in the wild, to keep your eyes peeled.

Written by Curtis Tackett. Curtis is the Aquatic Nuisance Species Biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The Southern Flying Squirrel

They Glide, Not Fly

The Southern flying squirrel, Glaucomys volans, is one of the smallest Oklahoma squirrels, measuring only eight to 10 inches long—including a three to four inch tail. Although primarily gray with a cream-colored stomach, there are reports of reddish brown flying squirrels. This small rodent weighs only three ounces at adulthood—slightly more than a regulation tennis ball. The only nocturnal member of the squirrel family, flying squirrels have large eyes that help them navigate in the dark.

Southern flying squirrels are found in forests like the one above. Photo by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Found in deciduous forests—primarily in stands of oak, hickory, or walnut—the Southern flying squirrel is best known in the eastern half of the state. Even so, they have been recorded as far west as Comanche County in southwestern Oklahoma. These squirrels rely on fruit or nut producing trees for food and nesting habitat. Although nuts make up the bulk of the flying squirrels diet, they are one of the most omnivorous of squirrels—feeding on everything from flower blossoms to bird eggs. Another distinction between the flying squirrel and other tree squirrels is the feeding pattern. Flying squirrels cut a uniform circle on the side or end of each nut, leaving the shell intact. Other tree squirrels crush the shell to reach the meat.

Despite the name, the Southern flying squirrel doesn’t actually fly—it glides. The difference? Flying requires an unassisted gain in altitude, while gliding can be described as descending with style. Regardless of the terminology, watching this squirrel travel from tree to tree is quite a treat! These arboreal rodents are able to gracefully travel long distances—up to 200 feet— by way of two adaptations. The first is the thin layer of fur covered skin, or patagium, extending from the fore feet to the back feet. When stretched tight, this patagium acts as an umbrella, allowing the squirrel to glide through the air. The second adaptation is the flattened tail. Almost half of the total body length, the tail acts as a stabilizer and also helps when balancing on small limbs.

Southern flying squirrels are cavity nesters, using their nest throughout the year. These squirrels often use cavities that were originally excavated by woodpeckers, sometimes even causing woodpeckers to abandon the nest. Entrance holes to the squirrel nests are generally larger than one inch in diameter and the cavity is lined with bark and leaves. These rodents typically breed twice a year—once in late winter, and again in mid to late summer. The litter ranges from one to six, but often contains only two to three young, weighing only a quarter of an ounce each at birth. The nestlings are able to glide eight weeks later.

Due to the nocturnal lifestyle, not much is known about the Southern flying squirrel’s distribution or conservation status. While recent research has shown that these squirrels have a larger Oklahoma distribution than previously known, reliable population estimates are unavailable at this time. Predators of the Southern flying squirrel include birds of prey and snakes, but the most common predator seems to be domestic cats.

The next time you go camping or sightseeing in Oklahoma’s eastern deciduous forest, be on the lookout for the Southern flying squirrel.

Written by Jena Donnell. Jena is quail habitat biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Christmas Gifts For Your Wildlife Enthusiast and The Wildlife

They Both Enjoy the Holidays!

One of the greatest things about having a spouse, parent, child, friend or other loved one who enjoys wildlife is that you never have to worry about finding a good Christmas gift for them. There is always something else they can add to their collection of binoculars, canoes, hunting and fishing gear and other assortments of outdoor gear and resources.

But if you are having trouble this year, stroll through the Wildlife Department’s Outdoor Store online at wildlifedepartment.com. There are several featured products and publications sure to be enjoyed by Oklahomans who love wildlife.

A custom license plate sporting the image of a whitetail deer, scissor-tailed flycatcher, largemouth bass, bobwhite quail, rainbow trout or turkey is a good way for your loved one to show their interest in the outdoors while at the same time financially supporting the Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Diversity Program.

Caps and patches featuring a number of wildlife species also are available in the Outdoor Store, and you can even get the wildlife enthusiast in your life a gift subscription to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine — a full color, bi-monthly publication full of articles about Oklahoma’s outdoors. Additionally, a range of books provides a wealth of information about everything from attracting wildlife to identifying birds.

Log on and visit the Outdoor Store today for a look at all of the products, publications and other resources that may be just the right gift for your wildlife fanatic.

Christmas for Wildlife

If you really want to be festive, give your favorite wildlife species a Christmas gift as well. Bathouses and birdhouses provide useful cover to wildlife, and placing a few backyard bird feeders on your property will not only fuel Oklahoma’s wintering birds, but will also provide countless opportunities to see some of wildlife’s most colorful representatives right outside your window. In addition, any time you buy a hunting or fishing license or gifts from the Wildlife Department’s Outdoor Store, you are helping to fund conservation, and that is perhaps the greatest gift you can give to your favorite wildlife species this Christmas.

Written by Michael Bergin. Michael is the associate editor of Outdoor Oklahoma with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

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The WILDLIFE DIVERSITY PROGRAM monitors and manages the state's wildlife and fish species that are not hunted or fished.