NEBRASKAland December 2018

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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Page 6 of 59

DECEMBER 2018 • NEBRASKAland 7 GOLDHAFEN It seemed as if the four of us were moving in almost perfect unison as we quickly and carefully exited with our mystery captive through the sliding doors onto the deck. We pulled the blanket open, ready to run away screaming if necessary. There it was – a little southern flying squirrel looking up at us with its sparkling big brown eyes and pink button nose. It remained motionless at first as it assessed its new situation. Then in a split second, it jumped onto a branch overhanging the deck and was gone into the night. We all smiled and laughed, grateful that we had the opportunity to see a flying squirrel up close and that we successfully got him back to the trees where he belonged. Southern flying squirrels are considered a threatened species in Nebraska. They are a nocturnal, woodland species found in the southeastern part of our state. Flying squirrels are omnivorous but rely heavily on oak and hickory mast production for their forage. Extensive stands of mature oak/hickory woodlands provide suitable nesting cavities. Flying squirrels do not hibernate during winter, but they will become less active and sometimes huddle together in tree cavities for shelter and warmth. Their geographic range is limited when there are few woodlands that provide suitable habitat characteristics within our state. When old oaks and hickories are harvested or woodlands become fragmented or converted to other uses, food, cover, and nesting habitat for flying squirrels may be lost. To conserve flying squirrels in southeastern Nebraska, management goals should include the maintenance of healthy woodland structure with native understory plants. Oak and hickory woodlands can be managed for multi-year age structure with plentiful large trees to provide nesting cavities. If timbering is part of management, cutting should ensure that an adequate number of large, well-spaced trees remain that can provide nesting sites. Minimum woodland stand size should be approximately two square miles. Control of invasive plants such as eastern red cedar and garlic mustard will also help in maintaining habitat for flying squirrels and numerous other wildlife species. Southern flying squirrels don't actually fly, but they have wing-like skin that extends from their front and hind paws that allows them to glide. Maybe if you're in the right spot at the right time, you'll be lucky enough to see a flying squirrel gliding from branch to branch. They are certainly much better off in the trees than our chimneys. ■ Squirrel, historic Illustration, 1849. Charles d'Orbigny's 'Dictionanaire Universal d'Histoire Naturelle' 1839-1849. Steel engraving. Original hand coloring.

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