Female puberty usually occurs from 6-24 months of age. First estrus or heat cycle tends to be irregular. If the vulva is swollen and protruding she is in estrus. If no swelling is present, she may be in a proestrus phase. The first estrus is usually the most difficult for a female flyer and their behavior can be quite nasty. Female flyers are fertile for around 24 hours. If not bred in that time, they go into a second estrus cycle about 30 days later. If not bred then, the next fertile estrus cycle is usually the next breeding season.
Southern females born in the spring do not become sexually mature until the February mating season when they are about 11 months old. A female born in late summer might mate in February when she is only 6 or 7 months old. We do know of several cases of 6 month old flyers giving birth and one case of a 4 month old female. Oldest flyer to give birth that we know of is 10+ years. SFS usually have 2 litters a year.
Northern flying squirrels enter estrus much later than southern flyers and only produce one litter a year. The 24 to 36 hour period of ovulation is only induced by mating, their duration of estrus can last for many days if they do not mate, and eventually they will go into the proestrus phase, perhaps followed by another estrus phase. Eventually, they'll go into anestrus phase and the behavior will be back to "normal".
Southern flying squirrels are only able to conceive during a 2 week period. Stages of the cycle are:
1. Anestrus ... An interval of sexual inactivity between two periods of estrus.
2. Proestrus ... The period immediately before estrus, characterized by development of the endometrium and ovarian follicles.
3. Estrus (heat) ... The periodic state of sexual excitement in the female that immediately precedes ovulation and during which the female is most receptive to mating. This lasts for 24 hours.
4. Diestrus ... a short period of sexual quiescence between two estrus periods, during which the uterus is prepared for a fertilized ovum.
Diestrus or Anestrus is a variable time of sexual inactivity The male shows no sexual interest in the female. The female shows no sexual interest in the male. The vulva appears normal. It is not swollen or edematous.
If the female is bred, gestation is approxmately 40 days. As the gestation progresses, the female becomes increasingly intolerate of other flyers. It is best to move the male to a "bachelor pad" if the cage is not exceptionally large and especially for a first litter when the female is apt to be more anxious. Males have been killed by females during this period and when pups are young. No other flyer (and often HOFs) are tolerated at the nest site.
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