Fabulous Flying Squirrels

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Fabulous Flying Squirrels It’s night somewhere in a forest in North Carolina. An owl hoots in the distance. Frogs call to one another in deep, raspy voices. Meanwhile, up in the tall trees a strange sight can be seen. Every once in a while, one or two square patches seem to be sailing across the sky from one tree branch to another. What are these mysterious moving shapes? Would you believe they are squirrels? They’re not the kind you see in city parks. These are flying squirrels. Actually, they don’t really fly the way birds and bats do. They don’t have wings and don’t flap their front legs. Instead, they glide downward from higher branches to lower ones. They do this at night, hunting for food that is found on and among the trees, such as insects, nuts, and birds’ eggs. These mammals are able to glide because of a special way their fur and skin stretch across their backs. It is as if they are wearing tiny capes that are connected to all four paws. They also have flat tails. To glide, first they push off from the tree with their back legs. They spread their legs and catch the air in their furry capes. By tilting their legs they can steer their bodies left or right. They can also pull their legs in to speed up or stretch them out wide to slow down. Their flat tails help them land without falling over. Each time a flying squirrel arrives at a new tree branch, it is closer to the ground. Flying squirrels try not to stay near or on the ground for very long because they could be caught and eaten by owls, hawks, foxes, or cats. So as soon as they can, they use their paws to climb up the nearest tree and start their hunting trips once again. ™ © Advanced Assessment Systems/LinkIt! Duplication is restricted to licensees only.

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