Commonly mistaken for the Sugar Glider, the Squirrel Glider is the larger of the two species and grows to up to twice the size, with a head and body length of 20cm.
The Squirrel Glider is brown-gray in color with a dark stripe down their foreheads and backs. The color of their bellies varies from pale gray to creamy yellow and they have a long bushy tail that has a dark tip.
Big, black glistening eyes help them forage for food in forests at night. To communicate with each other, gliders utter a nasally, guttural call, and a gurgling-like chatter. When alerted to the presence of predators, they even yelp a loud yip to sound an alarm.
These small creatures love to climb and are rarely found on the ground. They have membranes of skin that stretch between their front and back legs allowing them to glide through the air and jump from tree to tree.
Squirrel Gliders have been known to glide up to 100 meters with a downhill slope and up to 50 meters on flatter gradients. Using the curvature of both the left and right sides of the membrane, they can steer and maintain stability.
When landing, they bring their back legs right into their body, make a swift upwards movement and land on all four feet.
Squirrel gliders live in small family groups with a single male, one or more females and their offspring. Females reach sexual maturity from 12 months of age, while males will reach it at over 2 years of age.
These marsupials are also polyoestrous; meaning, they can have more than one reproduction cycle a year. Peak breeding times are between June to January, with females producing a litter of 1-2 offspring, up to two times per year.
Typically, the mother weans her young in her pouch for up to 4 months. For the following 8-14 months, their joeys ride on the mother’s back and finally become independent around 12-18 months of age.
Habitat and Ecology
The species is widely distributed and can be found in Cape York, Queensland, along the Great Dividing Range, Victoria and in some isolated pockets in eastern South Australia. Yet, their numbers are thin and dwindling.
Gliders play a critical role in the ecosystem by reducing wood-boring insect populations of caterpillars, beetles, and stick insects. These insects damage trees and habitats by spreading fungi and diseases.
The squirrel glider has a strong affiliation with their home range, which is roughly 3-5 hectares in size. They will not migrate, even if the vegetation is destroyed by forces like fires and logging.
A Population Under Threat
Today, the Squirrel Glider is listed as vulnerable in NSW, threatened in Victoria and endangered in South Australia. Although it is listed as common in Queensland, concerns have been raised that their number may be fast declining.
Hitting barbed wire fences whilst gliding contribute to their decline, as well as countless attacks by feral cats in Queensland.
Threats that confront the species stem from the fragmentation of their habitat due to forest logging. This makes it difficult to find hollows for nesting, as well as the loss of food sources they need from the flowery mid storey shrubs.
Help us Protect the Squirrel Glider
It isn’t too late to save the Squirrel Glider from extinction. We have the power to call a halt to the continuation of biomass burning for electricity. Plans to accelerate this industry will destroy the fragile habitats of the species and place these already vulnerable species at higher threat.
The previous federal government allocated millions of dollars in tax-payer funds for “preparing forest industries for the future.” This research is happening now. If this industry takes off, the future is bleak: it is the destruction of habitat for already vulnerable native animals like the Squirrel Glider.
We won’t sit back while the Squirrel Glider’s habitat is destroyed. Support our campaign to save our forests and our native wildlife. Share this article, join our community or support our current campaign to prevent burning Australia’s forests for power.