I debated for quite some time what my first blog should be about. This past weekend I took some shots of my little critters and I decided that nothing would be more fitting than a blog about them! As you may or may not know, I have “pocket pets”…both sugar gliders and flying squirrels. They call them pocket pets because, well, you can keep them in your pocket! They’re both nocturnal, so it’s recommended that if you can, you carry the pet around with you while it sleeps in the day….in your pocket or some sort of “pouch”. When the baby sleeps it gets used to your voice, smell and all that good stuff. It will bond to you and become quite the amusing friend over the years.
Now, you might be wondering how I even came to have these critters as pets: Well, when I was a kid one day we opened our wood stove and found a flying squirrel had come down the chimney and set up camp. She came to be a good pet for around 8 years, but since we acquired her as a “teen”, she never became fully tame. She’d eat from your hand, but that was about it. When I got older, I decided to research them because I’d always heard about raising them from a baby, and how folks kept them in their pocket. I wanted to give it a try myself. I started with 2 flying squirrels: Rio and Junie. Rio was quite the pal. I’d take her everywhere: The movies, work, school…she didn’t mind, and no one ever knew. Junie is still with me and is 8. She’s doing quite well and has since acquired some new cage mates.
I actually came across sugar gliders as pets while searching online for a flying squirrel breeder. I got Oscar back in 2004, right after I got his mate Sydney. She was so happy to have a friend. Sydney was my first glider, and you see, gliders are far more social than the squirrels. Leaving a glider alone can actually kill it. It will become quite depressed and do neurotic things like rub its hair off, etc. I remember I first tried to keep them separated when I got them while I carried them. But Sydney was so desperate for a buddy, she found a way out of her pouch and into his. She would grab his face and rub her head on it to mark him (they mark things with their scent glands). They became quite the pair from that day on….
…and of course that means baby gliders, or “joeys” as they are called. It was quite the thing to watch her carry those babies around in her pouch. They carry babies like any marsupial: Once it’s born it makes the journey to the pouch, where it stays until it’s ready. It actually goes through a little “transition phase” where it will climb out of and back into the pouch, until it’s too big to fit back in and stays out forever. Once it gets too big to go back in the pouch, she’ll carry it around on her back for awhile while she ventures around. In fact, with sugar gliders, the male helps raise the baby and will sit with it while the mom goes out to eat….
They had quite the little family for all those years. Sydney died in 2011, but Oscars taken it quite well after all those years. That’s Oscar in the second image there, with his son Echo.
A little about Gliders and Squirrels:
Both gliders and flying squirrels have the long stretchy skin between their feet that allows them to “glide”, also known as the patagium. They live in the treetops, gliding up to several meters each night from branch to branch. While they might seem quite similar, the two are actually quite different: Sugar gliders are native to Australia, and are marsupials, while southern flying squirrels are native to the southern united states and are mammals. Sugar gliders are quite predatory, and will snatch up young animals such as a baby mouse in a heartbeat. Their diet includes eucalyptus in the wild, and various fruits and bugs….even a small animal such as a mouse or an egg. The squirrels seem to be a bit more skittish in general, and aren’t quite the predator that the glider is. They prefer seeds and like any squirrel, can’t do without acorns!
It’s quite easy to photograph the critters: First, you’ll be waking them up from sleep if it’s during the day, so, like any of us, they aren’t quite ready to run a sprint first thing. Just feed them a nut or a treat, keep the noise and movements down, and they’ll just sit there perfect…