E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Glaucomys sabrinus (Shaw, 1801)
Northern Flying Squirrel
Family: Sciuridae

© Catherine Keller  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #95840)

Distribution of Glaucomys sabrinus in British Columbia.
Source: Map courtesy of David Nagorsen


The Northern Flying Squirrel is a seldom seen nocturnal, arboreal species of squirrel. It is one of two species of flying squirrels found in North America, the other is the Southern Flying Squirrel.


This is a medium-sized, distinctive squirrel species in British Columbia, with its broad, flat tail and large eyes, large round sparsely-hairy ears, and the fold of skin that allows it to glide that extends from the wrist to the ankle on both sides (Nagorsen 2005). It is grey-brown to brown in colour with pale undersides and has a distinct black lateral line on each side (Nagorsen 2005).


Habitat for the Northern Flying Squirrel is described by Linzey and Hammerson (2008): "It prefers coniferous and mixed forest, but will utilize deciduous woods and riparian woods. Optimal conditions have been reported as cool, moist, mature forest with abundant standing and down snags. Often most abundant near surface water; that is, swamps or streams (Heaney, in Wilson and Ruff 1999). In the Oregon Cascades, Rosenberg and Anthony (1992) concluded that flying squirrels are habitat generalists and are not more abundant in old growth than in younger, second-growth stands.... In winter in British Columbia, squirrels appeared to select nest trees more for suitable nest sites than for tree size: diameter at breast height was 16.7-79.0 cm, age was 42-174 years, and height was 11.2-32.7 m (Cotton and Parker 2000). Small outside twig nests sometimes are used for den sites. Sometimes uses bluebird boxes."


The Northern Flying Squirrel is a highly social species that lives in family groups. It feeds on fungi, lichens, insects, nuts, buds, seeds, fruit and may subsist on lichens and fungi for extended periods (Linzey and Hammerson 2008).


Northern Flying Squirrels are found in North America from Alaska across Canada and south into several regions of the United States (into southern California, southern Utah, northeastern Dakota and eastern Tennessee/western North Carolina) (Linzey and Hammerson 2008). In British Columbia, this species is found across the mainland of the province. Although present on some coastal islands, there is little documentation, and it is absent from Vancouver Island (Nagorsen 2005). Nagorsen discusses coastal island occurrences: "There are records from Campbell and Princess Royal. two islands on the central coast, and from Cortes, Quadra and Stuart Islands off the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island. The absence of this species from Vancouver Island...is a biogeographic curiosity because the ...population on nearby Quadra Island is only 700 metres away...".


Nagorsen (2005) indicates that 25 subspecies of the Northern Flying Squirrel are recognized, with seven found in BC:

1) Glaucomys sabrinus alpinus (northern and central BC)
2) Glaucomys sabrinus columbiensis (southern dry interior valleys of BC)
3) Glaucomys sabrinus fuliginosus (southern Coast Mountains)
4) Glaucomys sabrinus latipes (southern Rockies north to Glacier National Park
5) Glaucomys sabrinus oregonensis (to Loughborough Inlet, coastal BC, and a few southern coastal islands)
6) {i{Glaucomys sabrinus reductus (found only in BC, known from the central coast and Coast Mountains
7) Glaucomys sabrinus zaphaeus (northwest coast).

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS5YellowNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Photo Sources

Species References

Nagorsen, David W. 2005. Rodents and Lagomorphs of British Columbia. Royal BC Museum Handbook. Royal BC Museum, Victoria.

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2019. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2020-05-29 7:37:06 AM]
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