SIX NATIONS – Residents at Community Living got a celebrity visit from Rocky the Flying Squirrel Tuesday as worker Debbie Henhawk brought in a flying squirrel she captured at her home near Mohawk Road and Second Line.
She says there is a whole community of them in the Carolinian bush around her home and some have even taken up residence in her home.
“I heard something rustling in the closet,” says Henhawk. “I pushed some boxes around and this little thing came running out.”
At first she thought it was a mouse or a chipmunk, and set up a live trap to catch the critter, bated with a cookie. Well, it seems “Rocky” likes cookies.
Before releasing it back into the bush at her home, Henhawk called Wildlife Officer, Paul General, who came to Community Living to confirm the identity of the little critter.
“I remember when I was young we had flying squirrels around our house,” said General. “With the clearing of trees and subsequent lack of habitat, that has a lot to do with how rare they have become around here. We used to run them up a tree and when they had no place else to go, they jump and glide away.”
The elimination of Carolinian forests, of which Six Nations proudly still holds the largest stands of in Ontario, has also reduced the population of these timid nocturnal creatures, and General is not surprised that there would be a population of them here.
“Because they are as small as they are, they wouldn’t be useful as a food source for hunters or anything,” says General. “They are also almost exclusively nocturnal so not many people see them.”
Flying squirrels are also much smaller than someone may expect and could be mistaken for a number of other species. They are only about the size of a chipmunk, fully grown. This area represents the northern boundary of where they might be found. Just off the top of his head, General thinks they are on the threatened list.
“It’s not uncommon to find them in homes,” General says. “They are kinda like raccoons in that way. But they are pretty innocuous creatures. A mouse would probably do more damage. They will bite, like any other creature, but they are certainly not dangerous.”
Henhawk says she has removed as many as nine of these creatures from her home over recent years.
“I’m not sure if it’s the same one coming back over and over again or if I have a few of them,” she says.
He is glad that “Rocky” will be released back in his own forest home.