Sunday, October 4, 2015

Siberian Flying Squirrel

Siberian Flying Squirrel Pteromys volans
Siberian Flying Squirrel Pteromys volans
  While hiking a new mountain outside of Suncheon yesterday, Helly and I were lucky enough to have a rare encounter with a Siberian Flying Squirrel.  These shy and mostly nocturnal critters are not often seen, but apparently the females and young sometimes feed during the day.  A quick search online shows them listed as endangered in Korea (but not protected), and apparently they aren't meant to be found in this part of the peninsula.
  I spotted this one by almost walking into it - it was clinging to a tree at eye level, and for a moment I couldn't figure out what I was looking at.  Slightly larger than a chipmunk, all I initially saw were the massive oil-drop eyes and a tangle of bunched-up armpit 'wings'.  It eventually scuttled silently up the tree and watched us watch it for several minutes, before...lift-off.  The squirrel repositioned itself a few times, then hurled itself off the branch.  It fell straight down for a moment, then spread its limbs and swooped upwards, gliding expertly to a tree perhaps 50 feet away.  It looked like a rectangular grey sheet of A4 paper, its tail flattened out and acting as a rudder.  A truly stunning encounter - when it flew, I actually forgot to breathe for about 20 seconds.  We feel very fortunate to have shared a moment with this exceedingly shy and gorgeous creature.

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