Bonding With Your Flyer

Joan
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Bonding With Your Flyer

Postby Joan » Fri Sep 03, 2004 8:01 pm

Bonding with Flyers
Perhaps the most unique feature of Flying Squirrels is their ability to strongly bond to humans. The Southern Flying Squirrel has absolutely no problem bonding with its owners if the proper steps are taken at a young age. If this creature is pulled by the breeder before ten weeks, and carried around in the shirt pocket or kept in a bonding pouch or shirt for a few hours a day for several weeks, an indestructible bond will assuredly form. This bond will transfer to the new owner. Most hobby breeders pull pups at 5 or 6 weeks to begin working with them. With time and patience, even an older flyer can develop a bond to its owner, once a mutual trust has been established.

They absolutely love to travel in one's pocket, bra or bonding pouch for hours ... all day if you'd let them. During this crucial time of the bonding period, the squirrel will learn the voice, heartbeat, body odor, and warmth of its owner and will look for these things in later years as a sense of security. It is also important to pet them during this time. Many people prefer skin-to-skin contact by placing the pup inside the shirt rather than using a pouch.

Once these creatures have sufficiently bonded, they become quite sociable and will often want to play on or very near their owner, even going as far as racing through the clothes of their owners, dodging through shirts, shirt pockets, leaping from shoulder to shoulder, and sometimes scrambling onto their heads to play with and inevitably mess up the hair.

The Southern Flying Squirrel is a nocturnal animal, which means it is mostly awake during the night hours, though it will happily join its owner in day activities, so long as a shirt is provided for leisurely naps.

A bonded flyer:

Gets excited when it sees you.
It wants to be with you and on you.
It trusts you completely.
It likes to get rubbed under the chin and behind the ears.
It will try to groom you.
It will climb on the bars of the cage and reach through the bars towards you.
It does things to try and get your attention.
When you open the door of its cage, it will hop onto your hand or onto your shirt and rush down into the shirt.
You can pick it up and cradle it in your hands - however, some squirrels will never get over the natural fear of being grasped or held captive in your hands.



A flying squirrel requires an exceptionally dedicated owner to provide a sufficient amount of attention and bonding time to these very social creatures.

If his eyes are open you can keep him out more than an hour at a time. If he is nibbling any solid foods, you could give him a little treat when you have him out so he will know recognize you as a source of goodies. You do need to hold him in your hands some so he will get accustomed to being held. Just pick him up now and then and hold him still a short time. The goal is for him to learn that it is not such a bad thing and there may be a time when it is a life or death situation and you HAVE to hold him still. It also helps in the event he ever needs to see a vet. Vets don't care to chase flyers around to check them out. If you have a mother and babies, and you would like to begin the socialization process with the pups - and if the mother is being cooperative - you can get them out several times a day and/or keep them out longer.

Take your new pup out of your shirt now and again, just holding him in a fairly loose palm, caress him, coo over him, then drop him back inside your shirt for more rest. Keep in mind that night time is their "active" time, and be sure you give a new pup a few nights confined to his cage, so he will recognize it as his home base, before you give him room freedom.

When he's in the cage, expect him to be nervous when you first reach in, and expect him to jump away from your hand. Bring your open palm to him, and allow him to decide to climb aboard. If he's in a corner, you can gently "cover" him with your hand, and scoop him up -- but do not do this in a rapid way -- gently, and slowly, so that he does not interpret the movement as a predator's grasp. His momma would "cover" him with her body, and then "roll" him into a sort of ball, grasp him with her mouth by his belly, and then pick him up -- you need to do sort of the same thing ... roll him into a ball, and scoop him up -- not a tight hold, but a secure hold.

The best way to work with a new flyer is in a small room (like the bathroom), where there is not much but you, for company and amusement. Allow the flyer to set the pace, and never make him feel "hunted down." Try to get him to trust you with treats. Find something he really likes such as pecan pieces. Use small pieces that can be eaten quickly so he doesn't want to run off to eat them. Make him take them from your hand to get them. Too much chasing may be defeating your purpose. You might try being very still and see if he will investigate you and climb on you. Also make sure you are interacting with him. Every flyer is an individual and you'll be amazed at how much your own intuition will come in to play, in developing into your flyer's best friend!

It is possible for flyers to bond with more than one person. Frequently a flyer will take a liking to a specific family member, to the exclusion of the one who actually wanted the little bugger in the first place! Often, a flyer will adapt to whomever is showing the most attention. It can be helpful to "share" responsibility for the flyer's care with other family members and for various members to take turns carrying the pup around while it is still young and impressionable. This way, the flyer will bond to more than one person ... although they usually have their "favorite" HOF.

Taming Older Flyers

Bathroom Method
With an older flyer, it might be easiest to carry him into the bathroom in his nest box. Squirrel proof the room ... make sure there are no places a mouse could squeeze through ... and provide some sure traction (towels on the bar, a robe on the back of the door, cloth shower curtains -- and it sometimes helps to use a blanket over the fixtures, to soften any possible falls). Make sure there are no places in the bathroom where he can get into the walls or floor or ceiling -- check around the heating duct or pipes, and stick a sponge into the tub spout, as well as in the sink overflow slot, and of course put the stopper down on the tub and sink and close the lid of the toilet. It's very helpful to have a towel covering things like the sink, because naturally, if a flyer has no traction, it makes them nervous. Hang a cloth shower curtain over the tub (With babies, put a comforter over the tub, and the spout/faucets, to make sure that, should the pup slip, they won't hit a very hard surface.)

Hang a robe on the back of the door, and towels on the rack. The robe is useful for those times when a flyer is out of reach, right between your shoulder blades. Just stand, and lightly brush the flyer off your back with the robe -- they usually climb aboard the robe, and thus you can collect them.

Take hand towels and drape them on the shelves; again, for the traction.

Once the bathroom is "flyer tight," then you can bring him there, box and all, and put a towel under the door, if the door is raised above the floor ... and take along the newspaper or a book to read and just sit there with him. If you want, take him out of the nest box (you can "pour" him out on to your lap, if you're concerned about getting bit), and then, just let him set the pace. The trick with an older flyer is to allow them to come to you. He will likely find a high place to sit and just observe you. Allow him to get so curious about you that he will be more willing to climb on your open outstretched palm. Once he's comfortable, just move your open palm to him, offering him a place to climb. Don't attempt to "contain" him in any way. When he goes to jump off, not only let him, but act as if it was really your idea and of course, have places for him to jump to that are secure, but accessible.

Pecans work well as bribes. Give him plenty of time and try to avoid making him feel "chased," while still making an effort for contact. Talk to him. If he'll allow, use your index finger to rub his cheeks and just under his chin. Once he knows you're not going to eat him, he will likely get curious about you. If he climbs on you, praise him lavishly, but in a quiet voice. "Baby talk" him -- we all do it with our flyers;-) He will come around, if you are patient and consistent.

Don't be too eager to get him to move about. Flyers often like to sit still on a high perch for about an hour, before they begin to explore their surroundings. Place him on your lap and go about with your reading. If he should leave and seem to "huddle" into a corner, reach down slowly and "softly" in your demeanor, and gently encourage him to climb aboard your open palm (you can use both hands, to just nudge him on, and then just lightly and loosely cover him, to bring him up to your torso). Put him on your chest, and gently stroke his eyebrow, or rub his chin and cheeks. Most flyers just adore this -- the brow is a bit easier than the chin, at first, with "adult" flyers. Just use an index finger, and the touch should be so light that the only way you know you've touched him at all is his eye will close, as your finger traces his brow. If he moves up to your shoulder, so much the better, from his point of view. Often, flyers will go to your back, out of reach. If he does, just let him, for a while. Then, reach back, and 'herd' him forward.

When you've read all you want, if he's still in the catatonic "gargoyle" stage, you can begin to gently encourage him to explore -- but don't push too hard. You can also just scoop him up, and gently stroke his brow, while he rests in your palm or on your torso. The important thing in the "bathroom sessions" is that you not make him feel "hunted down."

When he gets used to the visual surroundings, he will then begin exploring. It does help if the bathroom lights are not 100 Watts. Replace such with 40 W bulbs, if you can. And some flyers are a bit too confused by the "space" behind the "solid air" (the mirror) -- if you find he tries to jump into the mirror, just use a sheet to cover the mirror.

Closet Method
Or you can use a closet instead of a bathroom especially if there are too many things in that bathroom more interesting to play on instead of you. But, you will need to empty the closet till nothing is inside and put in a 40 watt bulb.

Then started an intense two week bonding process, that starts with putting the sleeping flyer into your "squirrel shirt" (any shirt you don't mind being pee'd on or chewed)! Once the wee one is safely onboard, I'd go about your day. Depending on how tame your flyer is, this might not be possible right away. Then when you feel him stirring, go into the closet. Sit on a pillow with a small water dish and a couple of pecans and pine nuts next to you. At first an older flyer may "fight" his way out of the shirt, and bolt for freedom, but there would be nowhere for him to bolt to, and since you are the tallest thing in the "room," he will be instinctually drawn to "climb" you to higher ground. Only his fear may keep him away at first.

Be as passive as possible, and let him come to you in his own time. Eventually, he will get bored, and feel safe enough to explore crawling about your person; though at first you may have to place the water and pecans between you to get him to approach. After a day or so hold your palm out with a pecan or pine nut. At first, he may snatch them up and run to the other side of the closet to eat them. But in time, he will take them to your shoulder to munch, then eventually sit on your hand.

If you have him in a cage make him take a treat from you to get out. He will learn you give out treats and that you let him out to play. Basically try to get him to associate you with things he likes or likes to do.

Depending on how much human contact your flyer has or hasn't had, your progress may vary ... the important thing is to never give up.

In An Older House
In a bathroom, use a stopper in the tub and stick a sponge into the sink overflow hole (some sinks have just a few small holes, for the overflow, in which case you're likely safe). In your bedroom, check around any heating vents/pipes, and check around window and door frames.

In an older house, a bathroom might have too many places where a flyer can get lost/hurt due to the pipes to feed all the plumbing fixtures. A closet can be easier and more effective to squirrel proof.

Things to consider in an older home, heating pipes, space behind moldings, casement windows, large door gaps, are pretty much the norm. It's usually a lot easier in the long haul to squirrel-proof one room rather than the entire house ... but be sure the little guy doesn't escape!

First off, plug up the gaps where heating pipes enter the room. If you have old cast iron register types, the pipes will have most likely long ago lost their decorative pipe grommets. These are found for cheap in most home centers such as Lowe's etc. Doors with large gaps at the bottom, can be fixed up with some weather stripping, the outdoor kind seems to hold up better. Wires can be covered with electrical conduit ... they make two kinds, plastic and metal. I use plastic, as my wee one tends to chew on wood a lot more. Any unused electrical outlets should be plugged just as with a small child. You'd be amazed where a flyer will want to fish with a paw! Some houses have old wooden casement windows and while open, there is a gap at the top between the inner and outer panes so remember not to overlook this. Not to mention that fiber and metal screens are no match for a determined flyer! To be safe, keep all windows closed while he's out and about.

Baseboard heaters have essentially three components within a room. There is the pipe which enters the room through a hole, and exits through another, there are the "fins" to help heat the air, and then there is the decorative/protective "cover" usually made out of sheet metal. The vertical cover is removable for cleaning/repairs and depending on when you had them off last might or might not come off easily. Once off, brush out all the cobwebs and take a good look around for gaps and holes (use a flashlight to make sure). Most likely they'll be only the two, where the pipe enters, and exits the room. The best things to close these are with metal pipe grommets (they make hinged types so you don't have to cut the pipe) or expanding urethane foam. With the foam, you squirt a bit into the gaps, and the foam will expand to fill the space ... then you simply "trim" the excess with a knife ... though you can still cover it with a cover "just in case."

But in the meantime for a quick fix there is always .....good old duct tape!!!! Start taping every hole you find, and then check 3 more times.

And don't forget to look up! Almost all flyers will want to be on the highest place in the room, so take a good look at the tops of curtains, shelves, bookcases for anything that might be a perch. Anything that you suspect might cause harm should be removed or secured.

Tent Method
NFSA HOF Kathy has been doing great with this method. Angel, her baby flyer, loved it. She put a fleece blanket in the tent, along with a small tree and various other toys. She got the tent at Target on sale for $9.99. It's 5'x 6'x 3' called Junior Dome, model # 36041. Very easy to put up. It has a floor, a door with a window. It is vented at the top with a canopy which can be left off so there is more circulation. At the top of the tent is a loop and Kathy hung a rope down from it.

Leashes are not good for animals as hyper as a flyer. Since flyers are a prey animal their natural instinct is to try to escape if confined. They can be trained to accept being held still for a short time once they trust you to not harm them. While daytime is a good time to work with them for the bonding process, it is also their time to be sleeping.

If their sleep is interrupted too much, they can get to be "grouchy" just like a person would. Being carried in a pouch or in your shirt doesn't affect their sleep habit much. Handling during the day should be kept to a couple short periods per day. They can actually get accustomed to waking up during the day for a short play time and going back to sleep.

One thing that helps is having tiny treats for them. You want something small enough that he can eat it real quick and something he likes very much. Small pieces of pecan usually work good. When you pick him up, give him a treat. If he jumps to you give him a treat. You want him to think of you as a source of goodies. Getting the goodies will teach him to trust you. If the treat is too large they may want to be left alone while they eat it or they may want to hide it.

Mosquito Net Method
Tony came up with this: The type they use in the tropics to keep bugs off make an ideal, cheap and safe temporary 'bonding' room. A nice mosquito net runs $30-50 (Pier One has one for $45) and is essentially just a fine net, a bamboo/ratan ring, and a hook. The net is long enough to tuck under the mattress, and thus sealing the edges (there is an overlapping flap to gain entry/exit). Campmor.com http://www.campmor.com/webapp/commerce/ ... rmenbr=226 has one for $40 and smaller rectangular ones for even less.

Put down a blanket or towels over your good blanket or sheets to catch any wee one's messes.

You can then lie on the bed and watch TV while the little guy climbs all over the net, jumping back to you, burrowing into your cloths for several hours before he tires and wants to sleep. After you're done, all that's left is a small metal hook in the ceiling as the whole affair comes down and goes into a closet.

The only drawback is that the net wouldn't stand up long to flyer teeth if he really wanted out, but since you can get one for 30 bucks, it's worth a try. And that lying on the bed, you might get tired and fall asleep before the little guy ran out of energy! LOL

Working with a shy or reclusive flyer is a challenge, but it's well worth the effort. Some adults do not like to be picked up, but can be very affectionate. They may play with you, but being "petted" might not be their favorite thing. Pups and some adults that are "only" flyers are more inclined to like "petting" and caresses. But healthy flyers are not "lap dogs", and don't hold still long! (Indeed, if an adult is too willing to be picked up and cuddled, it often indicates illness ...) It takes a good deal of time and effort, and one has to remember "flyer" psychology to succeed

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mb
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Postby mb » Thu May 01, 2008 1:47 am

Great info! I have heard that flyers bond easily. My Spaz is very sweet. When I come to her cage she reaches her arms out and grabs my finger tight. I have a little sound that I make that she knows means I'm going to give her a treat. She is so hyper though....spastic! I have tried to hold her and a couple of times she has ran out of the cage door while I was putting food in and she won't be still for more than a few seconds. She jumps to the floor and starts running all over behind stuff. I'm soo afraid she will get under the bed, behind the desk, dresser, or somewhere I won't find her. I have 2 dogs, 1 cat, and 3 kids. I really can't let her get loose in the house. Going in a "squirrel tight" room is a great idea. I'm going to try that. I know she wants to be close to me b/c of the way she grabs at me. I keep her in my bedroom with the door closed and everytime I walk in (day or night) she comes out and runs to the side of her cage. But I also know how badly she wants out of that cage...especially lately, she has been chewing on it and trying to get the doors open all night. I've got to get some more entertainment in there for her.
I'm so happy to have found this site and all of the great information!
MB

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Re: Bonding With Your Flyer

Postby Rockyamom » Wed Oct 01, 2008 7:59 pm

I am concerned that my little furball is too attached to me. He would rather stay with me 24/7 than stay in his bed or any place for that matter. Is that a good sign or bad. But I do take him everywhere with me. And he does stay in my shirt almost all day long. He hates the bonding pouch and loves to stay sleep in my bed with me. He's a super snuggler. If you have any ideas or suggestions please let me know
Thanks
Alta
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Joan
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Re: Bonding With Your Flyer

Postby Joan » Wed Oct 01, 2008 8:32 pm

[quote="Rockyamom"]I am concerned that my little furball is too attached to me. He would rather stay with me 24/7 than stay in his bed or any place for that matter. Is that a good sign or bad.

Good. Sign of close bonding.

But I do take him everywhere with me. And he does stay in my shirt almost all day long. He hates the bonding pouch and loves to stay sleep in my bed with me. He's a super snuggler. If you have any ideas or suggestions please let me know

I don't know how old your fellow is, but as they age, they tend to sleep in more during the day and not want to be bothered. My Chuck is extremely bonded, but he'd rather not get out of his nest box during the day if he has a choice. He will go if pulled out and sleeps in my shirt.
He is also giving me fits lately and bite the stew out of me. I figure he in his breeding season and he's constantly after Mishi and her favorite hiding place is INSIDE my shirt. :puppydogeyes: He goes after her and is somehow seeing me as a rival and has been war dancing all over me. I try to keep away from both of them during out of cage time .... Mishi wants to hide acorns (and herself) in my shirt and Chuck is not far behind. I'm afraid to pull anyone out. Mishi will jump off, but Chuck refuses and attacks my hands if they get near him. I think he knows she'll be back and he has no intention of leaving. I try scraping him off on a limb and anything else I can come up with.

Enjoy your boy while he's little. LOL
"A lot of people spend time talking to the Animals, but not that many people listen. That's the real problem! ... Winnie the Pooh

Judy C.

Re: Bonding With Your Flyer

Postby Judy C. » Wed Oct 01, 2008 9:22 pm

Joan wrote:He is also giving me fits lately and bite the stew out of me. I figure he in his breeding season and he's constantly after Mishi and her favorite hiding place is INSIDE my shirt. :puppydogeyes: He goes after her and is somehow seeing me as a rival and has been war dancing all over me. I try to keep away from both of them during out of cage time .... Mishi wants to hide acorns (and herself) in my shirt and Chuck is not far behind. I'm afraid to pull anyone out. Mishi will jump off, but Chuck refuses and attacks my hands if they get near him. I think he knows she'll be back and he has no intention of leaving. I try scraping him off on a limb and anything else I can come up with.

Enjoy your boy while he's little. LOL[/b]



I am so thrilled to read this about you and Chuck! I get mad at Scamp sometimes and think "Why isn't my baby as bonded as Chuck is - he NEVER gives Joan any trouble!!!" But now the truth is out, and I can set my aim a little lower!

Judy

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Re: Bonding With Your Flyer

Postby kammu » Wed May 22, 2013 4:08 am

I recommend to must use a flashlight to make sure.

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Re: Bonding With Your Flyer

Postby daniegyrl » Thu May 29, 2014 11:01 am

I rescued a baby last week while at camp. I'm am happy to say that most of what you have said he is already doing! We spent our first 4 nights together in a tent and the bugger kept getting out while I was sleeping and crawled all over me. He is a love!! Taking formula, introduced him to carrot, butternut squash and apple. Of course he loves the apple. I think he's about 6-7 wks old and I'm in western PA if you have any suggestions I would love to hear them. Thank you!

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Re: Bonding With Your Flyer

Postby Joan » Thu May 29, 2014 1:22 pm

One that young will bond strongly ... just carry him in your shirt as much as possible.
"A lot of people spend time talking to the Animals, but not that many people listen. That's the real problem! ... Winnie the Pooh

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Re: Bonding With Your Flyer

Postby Skirkpatrick74 » Thu May 29, 2014 1:50 pm

Congratulations! Enjoy your new baby!
Shannon, mom to Sandy, Daisy, Jack, Zooey and three human teenagers! :)

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Re: Bonding With Your Flyer

Postby kammu » Sun Nov 29, 2015 7:36 am

kammu wrote:I recommend to must use a flashlight to make sure.


Or you can use some bring led lights as well.

Ship Lights

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Re: Bonding With Your Flyer

Postby BriJantzi » Sun Oct 22, 2017 11:13 pm

In 2013, after the death of my third hamster under the age of three, I decided to search for a small animal species with a longer lifespan. I researched nine species and narrowed the options down to two different species based on the required environment and care. That left me making a choice between a sugar glider and a flying squirrel. I chose the latter, having more experience with rodents than with marsupials. I did not have any experience raising a flying squirrel, and so I depended upon the knowledge and experience of the specialists at the exotic animal store. Unfortunately, what they told me ended up being detrimental to my flying squirrel's development and hindered her relationship with humans. Instead, here is what I have experienced as I worked with her and another flying squirrel that came into my care, and the differences I have observed between the two after changing the training that the second flying squirrel received.
Upon obtaining my first flying squirrel when she was about 9 to 10 weeks of age, I was immediately asked to pick out a cloth bag and was diligently instructed on the bonding process. The personnel at the pet store informed me that in order for her to bond to me I would have to catch her, roll her body into a ball to prevent her from biting, and tie her in this bonding pouch for six hours every day for three months. The time requirements for this bonding process differ widely depending on whom you ask. Some sources claim that this process will take as little as two to three weeks and other sources advise a year. I was informed that this was crucial for socialization, and if I were be unable to complete the process she would become too old to bond and resent any attempt of human interaction. I was extremely confused on why they would suggest this method to bond with her. One of the many lessons I have learned over the years is that it is imperative to establish some form of trust bond with any animal before handling him/her. In general, loud noises and sudden movements are discouraged due to the fact that this usually establishes you as a threat in the animal's mind. The bonding method they were suggesting appeared to contradict what I already knew about other animals. Being unfamiliar with this species, I followed their instructions, trying to be as gentle as possible when catching my flying squirrel, Aaralyn, and placing her in the pouch; but she was terrified of me. Every day when I stuck my hand into her drey (nesting area) she would frantically try to escape. Every night when she was out and I came into my bedroom, she would flee and hide. She would not even venture to peek out unless she heard my 11 year old cat, Flower, purring. Sometimes I was able to catch a glimpse of her face as she watched Flower and I interact. There were times when she would allow me to reach inside her drey and rub her stomach in a gentle manner similar to how I scratched Flower's. I took this as an honor, considering that nearly all animals are most vulnerable when they are on their backs.
One day, near the end of the three-month “bonding period”, we both decided that we had had enough. At this point she had already shredded her original bonding pouch, and there was no way she was going to allow me to place her into the new bonding pouch without possibly hurting her. I let her scamper away and disappear back into her drey and decided not to use the bonding pouch anymore. I began working on establishing a trust bond with her. This entailed no touching her unless she allowed it, and if I stretched out my hand to pet her and she flinched or fled, I would withdraw and leave her be.
She wanted nothing to do with me for almost a year, but with time, and a good example from Flower; her distrust waned. Our trust bond began to form much more quickly after I found out that she loved pecans. She would bolt into my hand and snatched the pecan meat away instantaneously. I worked with her on remaining perched on my hand and we gradually progressed onto scampering over everyone and everything in the room.
Today she eagerly jumps around her cage when I come in, and she pounces on me as soon as I can get the door open. She continues to display some amount of shyness/caution in certain situations and around strangers which is not altogether bad or undesirable.
The method of using a bonding pouch might be suitable for some animals, but I feel that it is unwise to trap/tie any creature in one. In my opinion, this website offers some better bonding methods that are more beneficial for the animal(s) in question.
You must remember that in their natural surroundings flying squirrels are considered prey animals and have the natural instinct to flee when startled. When bonding with a flying squirrel, you must also keep in mind that it is in foreign surroundings and does not know or trust you yet. To help establish a sense of security I believe the flying squirrel needs to know of several escape routes from its current position (Before this step one should have already provided a safe environment for by sectioning off any off-limits areas and putting away or protecting electrical cords before allowing the flying squirrel to roam free. Once it starts exploring, there is no stopping it, the squirrel will want to see, smell, touch, and taste everything it can find.). It is important to remember that being calm and quiet during these interactions is paramount because they are sensitive to a person's physical and emotional reactions. If it runs, you MUST NOT CHASE AFTER IT; again, this establishes you as a threat in its mind. Gently scoop it up if it will let you, or bribe it with a small amount of a favorite nut or peanut butter (make sure the peanut butter does not contain xylitol which is poisonous to animals!). In the beginning food is usually the best incentive for interaction, and hopefully the flying squirrel will gradually overcome its shyness and begin to feel more comfortable in its new environment and with you.
With Aaralyn I know that she will never behave like your typical pocket pet; sitting/sleeping curled up in clothing, particularly pockets (which she thinks are death traps after her experiences with the bonding pouch), and I am not sure if this specific behavior is natural for flying squirrels. This behavior makes more sense with sugar gliders which, being marsupials would naturally ride around nursing within their mothers pouch for 8 to 9 weeks before venturing out into the world. Although sugar gliders and flying squirrels appear very similar, they belong to different taxonomic orders (again one is classified as a marsupial while the other is classified as a rodent) and should not be trained or taken care of in the same manner.

A few years later, in 2015, I was contacted about an animal that was found flopping about in the grass on someone's property. The caller suspected it might be a baby squirrel and asked me to come take a look at it. Upon my arrival I found a 3 to 4 week old male flying squirrel. His eyes seemed to have opened not long before the incident and he was moving about somewhat awkwardly (possibly due to his young age) but was apparently healthy otherwise. It appeared that he had fallen out of his drey, and unfortunately we were unable to locate it and were therefore unable to return him to his home. I brought him home in Aaralyn’s traveling cage which was originally Aaralyn’s cage until she was moved into her permanent cage at 6 months of age. I decided to house him there until he was ready to be released into the wild. I did not interact with him except to bottle feed and it was during these feedings that I noticed some abnormal behavior. Some of the things he struggled with were correctly and repeatedly trying to jump onto the wall’s painted trees (which Aaralyn only did once before realizing that they weren’t real), and generally had difficulty flying when he was almost to be released. I surmised that he might have had some brain damage from his fall. After consulting with a veterinarian, it was decided that he would not do well in the wild.
After coming to that conclusion, I started working with him to acclimate him to being a companion animal. He was soon named Timothy and I would play with him at different times throughout the day for over an hour. When playing with him I would make sure not to move too quickly or be too loud. I would also bring in several different people who knew how to behave to help socialize him. From the very beginning he was extremely friendly and loved to clamber over everyone. He quickly learned his name and would usually come when called. If he didn’t, you could rub two nuts together and he would be with you in a flash. He does not have your typical “pocket pet” behavior of sitting in pockets mainly because pockets are boring and there are more interesting things to explore and do.
A bad habit I noticed with him was that if no one would spend time with him for a few days he would become nippy whenever someone would try to interact with him. For him daily interaction is a must.
Overall Timothy is better behaved and is a better companion than Aaralyn. He comes when called (most of the time), is very friendly, and eager to interact with new people. He can be nippy if not handled frequently and will naw on things. Aaralyn on the other hand does whatever she wants and practically never comes when called, will only allow me to handle her, and will bite others. Someone typically will be bitten if they try to mess with her when I am not around or if/when they reach into her drey. For some reason (only known to herself) she has never bitten me and will not bite others if I hand her to them. She will not sit with people or interact with them by climbing all over them or sitting on them like Timothy but would rather scamper about and jump across the room (thankfully I don’t have to worry about her nawing on things like Timothy and can generally trust her in that aspect).
Judging by Timothy’s demeanor and behavior, I believe that my initial belief about the bonding pouch method is correct. There are several other factors that might have had a hand in molding the Timothy and Aaralyn I know.
Aaralyn is female and I got her at an older age than Timothy. I have no idea how she was handled her before she came under my care; I tried using the bonding pouch method to her, and her overall personality.
Timothy however is male and came to me at a younger age without any known previous human contact. Although I tried to keep my distance and leave him alone before it was determined that he should not be returned to the wild, I was still handfeeding him for several weeks. That usually is considered a bonding method and a way to imprint animals. I just used positive reinforcement to train Timothy and his overall personality might naturally be better than Aaralyn’s.


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