The past two nights, I have had the pleasure of being visited by a potentially important visitor. While retrieving firewood from the garage, I was startled by a movement that I caught out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t see anything at first, but then, all of a sudden I saw a little furry face staring back at me from the sill plate of the garage above my head.
My first thought was, “That’s much to large to be a mouse… oh no, it’s a rat. Whatever you do, DON’T tell Amy you saw a rat out here or she will never come to the garage again.” If Amy saw a rat, she would panic… this caused me to panic.
I panicked not out of fear of the rodent, but because… I mean, there are repercussions to Amy never going to the garage. It’s where our freezer is located. It’s where our dryer is located. If I told her there was a rat out there, there was a real possibility that I would inherit cooking and laundry duties. As the panic began to sink in and settle, my next thought was to go get the BB gun, but I knew if I broke eye contact with him that he would disappear.
As I looked at him, I noticed that his eyes were huge, relative to his body size and that his ears weren’t really typical rat ears. Just as I began to think that this strange little creature was something new to me, he ducked back up onto the rafter header and disappeared, only to pop back out about 6 feet down the header. It was then that I saw his tail and his distinct coloring. His tail was NOT a rat tail. I mean, any boy who had gym knows what a rat tail looks like because we tried to simulate them with our towels in the locker room to attack our classmates. This was more of a squirrel tail. He was gray with a weird white under belly which came up into a white wave on his sides.
In some ways he looked like a chinchilla, but I figured it must be a squirrel of some sort, that I have not seen before. My panic began to subside. No, I wouldn’t have to do all the laundry and cook all the meals… a squirrel or fuzzy cute chinchilla-like mystery rodent wouldn’t scare anyone. Would it? At this time the little fellow disappeared back up under the eave and I didn’t see him. So I retrieved my firewood and went in to warm up.
I googled “Pennsylvania squirrels” and switched it to an image search. Hmmm… there he was, a flying squirrel. Pa. has two types. Both the southern and the northern. The northern was recently placed on the endangered list for Pa.
In fact, I read this:
The northern flying squirrel is common in the boreal forests of states along the Canadian border and Canada. In Pennsylvania, however, its distribution is limited to less than a half-dozen known sites in old-growth forests with a large percentage of conifers. All are in northeastern Pennsylvania, with the exception of one in Warren County and one in Potter County. It’s possible there are more local populations, but they haven’t been uncovered yet. Identification isn’t easy either, because they are very similar to southern flying squirrels.
I live in Warren County but not near the site where they are known to live. Still, from the coloring, the size and the nocturnal habits make me believe it was the Northern Flying Squirrel.
So yesterday I called the DNR for our region and the lady who took my call was skeptical and said… “Well if the biologist is interested they will call you back. Of course I didn’t hear anything yesterday.
So last night, I was getting firewood, walked into the garage, stopped, turned around and looked up. Hmmm… he wasn’t there. I guessed I might not see him again… and then… the chicken feed bag began to rustle and out he jumps and runs up a shelf leg to his “spot”.
So now I am on a mission. It’s not a critical mission. I will accomplish it in my own time… but I am going to try to capture this little booger and see if he is, indeed, a northern flying squirrel.