NOTE: This page was developed for young members (ages 6-10) of the YMCA Y-Indian Programs
BIG EAGLE'S
LITTLE
FURRY FRIENDS
Visit NuttyNotes.com and see Big Eagle's furry friends illustrated on his beautiful collection of humerous squirrley note cards
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Did you know that the scientific name for the family that squirrels belong to is Sciuridae? And did you know that the word came from the Greek words "skia", which means SHADE and "oura" which means TAIL? Well, ok. You probably didn't know that, and I'll bet your mom and dad didn't know it either. But I'll also bet that you can figure out why the scientists chose SHADE TAIL as a name for these little critters!
 
Bubbles
Many thanks to Barbara Kee for letting
Big Eagle use this picture of Bubbles.
B. Kee (c) 1998

Big Eagle has little furry friends that live around his house, and he thought some little braves or princesses would like to hear about some of them.

Bubbles, an out of work Rockette dancer, is a fox squirrel, but most of Big Eagle's friends are eastern grey squirrels. Eastern greys look very much like fox squirrels, but they are a little smaller and have more grey color than reddish brown. Ten or twelve of these furry little critters come to Big Eagle's deck every day to eat sunflower seed and mooch an occasional pecan or two.
 
Two of Big Eagle's favorites are little flying squirrels named Twinkels and Rocky who live in the attic timbers of Big Eagle's old log house. Big Eagle named Rocky after that fearless flyer in the Rocky and Bulwinkle TV show, Rocket J. squirrel. Twinkel's name just seemed to fit her nature when she was a baby.
Rocky, getting ready to jump
You don't know what a flying squirrel is? Well, when you first see one you might think it was built by a tribe of blindfolded Y-Indians. Flying squirrels look like a conglomeration of a dormouse, a chinchilla, a squirrel, a rabbit, a pika and a lemur. They have great big black eyes and a very loving nature. . . and they are very tiny .
 
These little guys have no odor and they always go back to the same place to go to the bathroom, usually near their nest.
Twinkels in her favorite pot
They don't get or carry rabies, and they never have fleas, mites, ticks or any other vermin.
 
The American Indians of long ago kept flying squirrels as pets. Here is what Captain John Smith, governor of the old Johnstown Colony, wrote in 1606 about the Indians who lived near them:
 
"A small beaste they have they call Assapanick, but we call them flying squirrels, because spreading their legs, and so stretching the largeness of their skins, they have beene seene to fly 30 to 40 yards." (Isn't that a funny way to talk?)
 Twinkels

In 1772, Another man, John Kalm, in his book called "Travels Into North America",wrote:

"Among all the squirrels in the country, (flying squirrels) are the most easily tamed. The boys carry them to school, or wherever they go, without their ever attempting to escape; if even they put their squirrel aside, it leaps upon them again immediately, creeps either into their bosom, or their sleeve,or any fold of the clothes, and lies down to sleep.

 Rocky
And did you know that President Theodore Roosevelt had flying squirrels at his vacation home at Pine Knot? Read about their antics in a letter from Theodore to his son Archie.
 
Flying squirrels have a hair covered flap of skin called a patagium
that is attached from the wrist of their forelegs to the ankle of their hindleg. When they are sitting still, they look like their skin is three sizes too big, but when they jump from a high place, they spread their little legs and glide, using the patagium as a sail.

 Flying squirrels don't really fly - the correct term for what flying squirrels do is "volplane" on that flap of skin just like an airplane. If your dad or mom flies airplanes, they know what a glide ratio is. Flying squirrels have a glide ratio of almost 4 to 1. That means for every foot they glide toward the ground, they go forward about four feet. They have flat tails with hair that grows out from the center and makes the tail look just like an eagle feather.They use the tail somewhat for steering when they glide through the air, but it is more important for slowing down just before they land. The tail is really an air brake!

These photos are by Nick Bergkessel and shown here courtesy of the
National Audobon Society's Field Guide to Mammels.
 
 
 
 
Did you know that if you live in the Eastern part of the United States and have big trees nearby, you probably have flying squirrels all around you?
 
What? You say "No I don't because I've never seen any"? Well I'll tell you why you haven't seen any. Flying squirrels are nocturnal animals. Nocturnal means that they only come out at night. Twinkels and Rocky, and all the other flying squirrels, sleep all day and wake up after the sun goes down. They have big eyes so that they can see better at night. That's why you never see flying squirrels unless you go out at night and really look hard.

You might be able to see flying squirrels in your back yard some night if you have big trees and a bird feeder. Many times these little guys come to bird feeders in the middle of the night and steal bird seed from the birds. If you put black sunflower seed in your bird feeder and sit very silently and wait long enough you might see some flying squirrels. Don't look the first night you put out the seed, though. Because they are very shy, it takes them several nights to find the seed and then get up enough courage to stay long enough to eat.

When they finally do get the courage, the little guys (and girls) will glide silently in, snatch a seed and flit quickly back to the safety of a tree trunk to eat it. They will do this many times before they get enough to eat. After they have been coming regularly to your feeder, you can put a dim light somewhere near the feeder to see them better - they won't even notice. Some people have been able to approach them as they eat and get very close before the little flyers decide to flit away. One lady said she was even able to very gently and slowly reach out and touch one of her little visitors! Their fur is so soft that when you touch it you almost can't feel it. Flying squirrels truly are wonderful little creatures.
Twinkels and Rocky had their first family on August 22, 1999 - five little baby flying squirrels. Shown at left is one of the little ones at 4 1/2 weeks. At right is the pot Twinkels chose to nest in. Thats Twinkels nosing her little baby and wondering just why Big Eagle is holding it. She wants the little guy back in the pot.

Brit and Last Eagle

Big Eagle has another little friend. Only this friend isn't as little. His name is Brit, and he is being held here by Last Eagle, Big Eagle's fourth and last Y-Indian. Brit is an eastern grey squirrel, just like squirrels you see every day if you live in the eastern part of the United States.One day in September (1999) Brit came to live with Big Eagle.

Brit and his brother and sister lived with their mother in a big oak tree near Big Eagle's house. A man cut down the big oak tree and the baby squirrels fell out of their nest. One got a broken leg and one had a bloody nose. Big Eagle was asked if he would like to take care of one of the babies and he said "Of course. Does a squirrel eat nuts?"

And so Big Eagle took baby Brit home to raise. Big Eagle had to feed Brit puppy formula mixed with whipping cream from a hypodermic syrenge (without the needle, of course).

Why is he named Brit? Because when Big Eagle came home with Brit that day and showed him to Mrs. Big Eagle she said "Oh, what a bloody nose that little guy has!" and then she said "The British people use the word bloody all the time, so why don't we call him Brit, which is short for British." Don't you think that is silly?  

Look closely at this picture -do you see an eyeball peeping out from under the blanket? That's Mrs. Big Eagle - she is hiding because she thinks Brit's claws are too prickley!

  These two photos show Brit as a teen-age squirrel. The picture on the left shows Brit sitting on Big Eagle's chair eating a pecan - his favorite food. Pecans are like candy to squirrels . You shouldn't give them too many because they won't eat anything else.

Brit is all grown up now and lives outside in Big Eagle's oak trees with all the other squirrels. He comes back to Big Eagle's window once in a while for a pecan handout or maby some sunflower seed. He recently found himself a girl friend and I think they are planning a family! I hope none of the babies fall out of the nest like Brit did!
Here are some pictures of Brit as a grown up squirrel.

         

        Here, Brit looks down at Big Eagle from his nest box in the big oak tree next to Big Eagle's deck.


I also want to tell you about my friend Whitey. Whitey is an eastern grey squirrel just like Brit, but she is more white than grey. She has a beautiful tail that is almost all pure white, and she is white most everywhere else except on her back, which is a beautiful powder grey color. Whitey has no brown hair. She is the most beautiful eastern grey squirrel I have ever seen, and she used to come to my bird feeder to eat sunflower seeds every day. She wasn't sure she could trust me, and she was very careful when I was around. Every time I went on the deck when Whitey was eating, she would run up the tree and sit and scold me with a
squirrley chatter . I think she was saying "Go away so I can come back and finish my lunch.
It was funny to watch Whitey stretch from the deck rail to the bird feeder. She slipped and fell once and it really ruffeled her dignity. She hoped nobody else saw her.
 
Then one day Whitey came to the feeder with her beautiful white tail broken and bloody. She could no longer hold it high and flip it around as she scolded that which needed scolding. I thought she must have been in a fight with a cat or an automobile and I didn't see her for a long time after this. I wondered: had she been caught by our neighborhood hawk - or did mother nature's rules just not let her survive without a full tail?

Then one day several months later heard a shout from Last Eagle (my son Paul) "Come here Dad, and see this!" Paul was looking out the window at the squirrel feeding area and, there was Whitey! She was looking almost as fine as ever with her white and grey colors and her haughty air. She was heartily eating sunflower seed. I couldn't believe my eyes.

Whitey's tail looked almost normal. About two inches from her back, where we last saw the bloody broken part, the tail was much thinner, but nice and white. She can't hold it up or wave it around for scolding, but otherwise, she was back to normal!
 
Whitey with her broken tail

I hope you enjoyed my furry little friends. Send me an e-mail if you have any questions or want to know more about them. And if you ever find a baby squirrel that seems to have lost it's mom, if you don't know what to do, e-mail me immediately, or call me at 888-222-8228 and I'll help you save the little baby.
 
If you can't reach me immediately, go to Care Instructions for Infant squirrels, These folks are Licensed squirrel rehabilitators and the information on their sites will help you to save your little furry friend.
 
Big Eagle Charlie Stone

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