Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska - News, Features, Opinions


Close Encounters of the Squirrel Kind
Photo by Kathy Stack
Story by M.C. Kauffman


September 20, 2003
Saturday - 12:45 am

Ketchikan, AK - Rarely seen but as abundant as red squirrels in Alaska are the Northern Flying Squirrels. And according to a story told by Ketchikan resident Kathy Stack, it appears that she had 'close encounters of the squirrel kind' with several of these creatures.

Stack has her computer set up next to a window where she can work and enjoy viewing her squirrel feeder. One night around 2 am while working she heard a noise. The window was open and when she looked up Stack was surprised to see an "ugly creature starring back" at her from the window ledge. Stack said, "It had huge eyes, a pushed in chin - not cute. I said get out of here and it ran, but it came right back and started to eat the cracked corn." Stack was again surprised when another smaller one appeared at the feeder.

Northern Flying Squirrel

Photo taken at night by Kathy Stack ©2003...

The "squirrel-bat-like creatures" came every night until the end of July," Stack said. "Nothing I did scared them." She said she even leaned out close to them to put more food on the ledge and they had no fear of her.

She described the creatures as having huge bushy tails that were much bigger than a squirrel's. Stack said, "they had a big flap with very light brown short hair over it when they put their arms out."

It appears that Kathy Stack's nightly visitors were northern flying squirrels. They are small nocturnal creatures with large black eyes, rounded ears, and long whiskers. The northern flying squirrel has a flight membrane that extends from their hands to their feet. When they glide, they stretch out their limbs so their flight membrane looks like a sail. They can jump and use their body to maneuver themselves in the air. It's reported that they can glide well over 100 feet.

The northern flying squirrels are described as having a flattened tail that is 40 percent of their total body length. The fur on their tails is very short on the top and bottom and long and flattened on the sides. Their tails act like a stabilizer and a rudder as the creatures glide in the air. The tail is also used to help them land.

The northern flying squirrel has a typical squirrel diet consisting of a variety of foods such as seeds, nuts, berries, mushrooms, fungi, lichen, sap, insects and sometimes bird's eggs.  Unlike regular squirrels, lichen and fungi are a large portion of the flying squirrels' diet. These furry visitors found Stack's crack corn to be a delicious and tempting meal!

Stack said she isn't sure if the creatures are still around her home. The creatures were at one time living in ground tunnels but now Stack thinks they may have moved under her home.



Reader's comment on this story:

Flying Squirrels by June Allen - Palmer, AK - September 20, 2003


Read more about the Northern Flying Squirrel:

Flying Squirrel Central

Alaska Department of Fish & Game Wildlife Notebook Series - Northern Flying Squirrel


Story by MC Kauffman:

Photo by Kathy Stack ©2003


Post a Comment         View Comments
Submit an Opinion - Letter

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska