In the summer of 2004, Aurora District Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) began a monitoring study to determine the presence/absence of Southern Flying Squirrels, Glaucomys volans in the District. The Natural Heritage Information Centres database contains no records for G. volans; however, they are known to have occurred in the District (Stabb, 1988). The northern range of G. volans overlaps with the southern range of the Northern Flying Squirrel, Glaucomys sabrinus so while monitoring for the southern species, the presence/absence of the northern species! would also be monitored as the trapping methodology for both is the same. The morphological differences between the southern and northern species are apparent only through in the hand comparisons. The differences are not obvious when observing flying squirrels from afar. Glaucomys volans are smaller in both weight and length than G. sabrinus. The fur on the belly of G. volans is white from the base of the hair to the tip whereas the belly hairs on G. sabrinus are dark at the base. Glaucomys volans are cavity-nesters found in deciduous and mixed forests. They are more abundant in mature forests although some are found in younger forests (Stabb, 1988). The optimal habitat appears to be mixed Carolinian forests with a wide variety of mast producing tree species (e.g., hickories, oaks and beech). They have been found in forests as small as 2ha in size but usually the forest was connected by treed corridors with larger forest areas (Stabb, 1988). The methodology used by Aurora District is adapted from the capture protocol used by Jeff Bowman, a research scientist with the Wildlife Research and Development Section of the MNR (Bowman, 2004). Currently five sites have been chosen for this summers 2010 population survey. The locations are based on habitat suitability and permission to use the property for research purposes. At each site, the traps will be left open for 3 nights. The traps will be opened (set) at dusk and checked at dawn. Each trap will be baited with a 3 cm ball of a peanut butter/molasses/oat mixture, and a smear of peanut butter will be left on the trunk of each tree above the trap. A small handful of cotton balls and a small piece of apple will be put in each trap for bedding and hydration respectively. The goal of the project is to have a complete distribution survey for the district. In order to achieve this goal, staff will continue monitoring new sites in subsequent years in representative areas of Halton, Peel, Toronto, York and Durham Regions. The number of sites to be monitored will be based on available resources. Staff time and funding are the limiting factors for completing the study. The assistance of one summer contract staff is required for each year of the study.
Emma Follows, OMNR Ecologist – Aurora District