Flying squirrels are one of the two squirrel species in South Carolina (the other is the gray squirrel) that commonly get into homes and other buildings. We also have chipmunks, which are another specie of squirrel; but they rarely get inside buildings.
The common name "flying squirrels" is actually a misnomer. Flying squirrels can't really "fly" in the proper sense of the word. Bats are the only mammals who can claim that honor. Flying squirrels can, however, glide very accurately from a higher area to a lower one. They can't gain altitude or perform complex movements in the air, but they can fly accurately enough to land pretty much exactly where they want to on a vertical or horizontal surface a considerable distance away, assuming that they have a high enough point to start from.
The reason why flying squirrels can't gain altitude or perform complex aerobatics is because of the shape of their "wings," which are really just membranes stretched between their front and back legs. These "wings" don't form a true airfoil, nor could a flying squirrel flap them rapidly enough to generate lift even if they did. Their tails also serve as adequate rudders for minor corrections while in the air, but they have insufficient surface area to provide the yaw authority needed to perform complex aerobatic maneuvers.
A flying squirrel's "wings" actually form something more similar to a paraglider than a true airfoil; and like paraglider pilots, they are limited in their maneuverability. They have expert enough control that they can land with pinpoint accuracy on pretty much any surface that they can see from their starting point, assuming that they have the height; but they can't turn corners to clear obstacles, and their bodies are too heavy in relation to their lifting surface area for them to gain altitude by catching updrafts or thermals.
Long story short, flying squirrels don't really fly. They just glide. But "gliding squirrels" just doesn't have the same ring to it.
Being able to glide gives flying squirrels a big advantage over their earthbound cousins, one of which is that they can get into attics and other elevated parts of buildings without having to travel on the ground, where cats, canines, raccoons, and other predators lie in wait. It also enables them to get into buildings with sidings that gray squirrels have trouble climbing, and to survive falls from high buildings. They simply glide to the ground and climb back up the nearest tree or building.
Once they get into a building, flying squirrels do the same sort of damage that grey squirrels, roof rats, or mice do. They tear up the insulation; gnaw on anything that's convenient (including electrical wiring); tear up stored clothing to use as nesting material; damage HVAC ducts and equipment; and foul the attic with their droppings and urine. They also are capable of serving as reservoirs for arboviral diseases that can in turn be transmitted by their fleas, ticks, and other ectoparasites.
Because of their small size and ability to glide, flying squirrel control can be a real challenge. They can get into very small openings that might not even be visible except from the air, so our technicians have to go over every inch of the house with a fine-toothed comb to make sure that they find -- and seal -- every possible opening. It's a lot like doing a bat job.
Flying squirrel control also requires specialized equipment, as well as the ability to work comfortably and safely in high places. It's definitely not a job for someone who's afraid of heights, and it's not a good DIY project. Call us instead. Rid-A-Critter has the staff, equipment and know-how to handle any flying squirrel job.
Here are some pictures of flying squirrel removal jobs we've done in and around South Carolina.
Young flying squirrels in a fireplace in Columbia
Flying squirrels got in under the vent in Columbia
Flying squirrel entry hole into a home in Newberry
Flying squirrel trapped in Aiken, South Carolina
Flying squirrel damage to ridge vent in Columbia
Baby flying squirrels in after being released
Flying squirrel gnaw marks in Columbia
View from an Evans, SC flying squirrel-removal job
Flying squirrel hole in a house in Aiken, SC
Juvenile flying squirrels
Flying squirrel evidence in a Lexington attic
A flying squirrel caught in an attic by our tech
Flying squirrel droppings and damage in Columbia
Flying squirrel removed from a house in Columbia
Flying squirrel trying to hide from our tech
Sealing flying squirrels out of a Lexington home
Flying squirrel entry point into Greenwood home
Flying squirrel hole in Lexington South Carolina
Flying squirrel entry through roof ridge flashing
Flying squirrel droppings in a Columbia attic
Flying squirrel droppings and urine in an attic
Flying squirrel entry point at a Freenwood home