By Gabrielle L. Wheeler
I had a very odd thing happen recently involving a squirrel. One mild-weathered night, I was sitting in my room with one of the windows half open when I suddenly heard a thump and some scratching. It sounded like it was just below my window and not large enough for a racoon-sized animal. I then noticed a little pair of legs clasping onto the wood that divides the windows. The underside of the animal was white and the body between those legs fleshy. A flattish tail not quite as long as the body hung down. Surprised, I identified the little creature as a flying squirrel.
While in college, flying squirrels had been included in mammalian biology classes I took, but the longer ago college gets for me, the more I’ve gotten to thinking that they are not resident here in the Finger Lakes Region. I have been incorrect in my thought though. According to Cornell University, there are two species of flying squirrel in New York, the northern (Glaucomys sabrinus) and southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans). Nearly identical, these little squirrels are nocturnal and common across the state.
A few nights after my initial encounter with the flying squirrel, it had a bad accident – with my toilet. Around 9:30 at night, I heard a scratching up on the roof. A bit later, I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when my toilet made a very odd sound like water dumping down into the bowl. And the sound didn’t stop. I opened the lid and there was a rat in it! So, I called my mom who came out with a little fishing net with which to catch the thing and then release it, hopefully far away. After much indecision, I decided I would try to capture the rat by throwing a pillow case over it and hope it ran up into it.
Unfortunately, the rat was a flying squirrel and flying squirrels must not be able to swim well, for the fellow was not doing so any longer when I opened the lid. We figure that it fell down into the vent for the toilet and couldn’t get out. I can’t decide it if was extremely intelligent or incredibly stupid for deciding to make a pass through the water. At any rate, I think the flying squirrel population in my woods has gone extinct for now. I’m hoping if they return, they stay out of my toilet at least.