Prince of Wales flying squirrel
Glaucomys sabrinus griseifrons

The Prince of Wales flying squirrel, Glaucomys sabrinus griseifrons, is a subspecies of the northern flying squirrel. Glaucomys sabrinus griseifrons is endemic to Prince of Wales Island in Alaska and has a unique coloration compared to other subspecies of northern flying squirrel. It is whiter on the ventral side, darker on the dorsal side, and the head/neck area tend to be more gray than other subspecies. This subspecies is genetically distinct from the northern flying squirrel from evidence found in mitochondrial DNA and microsatelite data. Adults are usually around 25-37 centimeters in length and 110-230 grams in weight. This subspecies is often considered a keystone species in the Southeastern Alaska area because it consumes and disperses conifer seeds and fungal spores into areas with little vegetation and sites of disturbance. The released fungi spores aid in the absorption of nutrients by plants and speed up regrowth in these areas.



The history of the range of griseifrons is unknown, but the subspecies probably colonized Prince of Wales after the last glacial maximum during the Holocene epoch. The Prince of Wales flying squirrel is found only on Prince of Wales Island now and a few neighboring islands in the Alexander Archipelago. Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis ) and Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla ) are the primary habitat for Glaucomys sabrinus griseifrons and they are associated with old growth forests. The population size is estimated to be greater than 10,000 individuals. Population densities are estimated to be around two to four flying squirrels per hectare (2.4 acres) on Prince of Wales. One study suggests that POW flying squirrel densities are among the highest recorded in North America compared to other flying squirrels and the subspecies can occupy a variety of forests.

Habits and Lifestyle

Despite its name, flying squirrels do not actually fly. They glide using a flap of skin called a patagium. Since they are arboreal mammals, they spend most of their life in old growth temperate rain forests in the high canopy. They are a non-migrating species and typically stay near areas in which they were born. They are active all year, even in the winter, because they do not hibernate. During cold weather in the winter, they huddle together to conserve heat. Groups as large as ten individuals have been documented. They are nocturnal with greatest activity right before dawn and right after dusk. They rest in dens during inactive times. They have a strong olfactory sense that helps them to detect food. The POW flying squirrel tends to utilize dens in tree cavities or snags for storing food, hiding from predators, and reproduction. They do not spend much time on the ground in order to avoid predation. Northern flying squirrels are considered to be one of the most aerodynamic of mammals with the ability to travel between 3 and 45 meters in one glide. They travel between the trees to feed and in search of dens.

Diet and Nutrition

Glaucomys sabrinus griseifrons have a generalized diet and can be considered carnivorous, frugivorous, granivorous, herbivorous and insectivorous. They primarily eat fungi, lichens, green vegetation, berries, seeds and insects. They have also been observed eating meat, young birds, and eggs. "Griseifrons" is suggested to be more generalized in its diet than other subspecies of northern flying squirrels. The American red squirrel tends to be the biggest competitor for resources for the northern flying squirrel. However, the American red squirrel is not found on POW islands therefore the POW flying squirrel does not have any major competitors.

Mating Habits

The Prince of Wales flying squirrel is a k-selected species. They start breeding around one year old, or sometimes older, and usually have one litter each year of 1-6 young, averaging 2-4. Mating seasons tend to be around February through July, and the mothers will nurture them inside dens. The males do not play in a role in taking care of offspring. Infants take around five weeks after birth to become almost fully developed. After around ten weeks, they are able to glide and leap, and are ready to leave their mothers. The flying squirrel longevity can reach up to seven years old in the wild. From this, annual survival rates are suggested to be fairly high.

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1. Prince of Wales flying squirrel Wikipedia article -

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