Woolly Flying Squirrel

Woolly Flying Squirrel

The range of Eupetaurus cinereus is restricted to the extreme northern portion of the Himilayas. All specimens have been collected from the rugged, mountainous region of northern Pakistan, but the range of E. cinereus is presumed to extend somewhat into Tibet. Within its range, E. cinereus dwells on rocky terrain at and above the timber line. It probably ventures into the isolated pockets of conifer forest to forage.

Woolly flying squirrel

Eupetaurus cinereus is known entirely from about ten specimens. Like other flying squirrels, it has elastic membranes on each side of the body connecting the fore and hind legs. It is slightly larger in size and has a shorter, bushier tail than the Giant Red Flying Squirrel (Petaurista petaurista albiventer) which also inhabits Pakistan. Two E. cinereus specimens measured 61 cm and 51.5 cm, respectively, from head to base of tail. The larger specimen had a tail length of 38 cm, while the smaller had a tail measuring 48 cm. The body is covered by a dense coat of straight, silky hairs. The dorsal pelage appears blue-gray, while the underside is pale gray in color. Creamy white hairs cover the throat and ears, and dense, black fur covers the soles of the feet except for the naked, pinkish brown toe pads. The tail, bearing hairs of about 7.6 cm in length, is large and bulky and may be as broad as the animal’s body. Molars have relatively high crowns compared to the low crowned, brachyodont molars of all other flying squirrel genera, and unlike other flying squirrels, the claws of E. cinereus are blunt and adapted for rocky terrain instead of an arboreal lifestyle.

Reproduction

Very little is actually known about the reproduction of E. cinereus. An immature specimen was collected on April 17. This seems to indicate that breeding occurs early in the spring and that two litters may be produced each season. However, such conclusions are little more than speculation.

Behavior

Despite the harsh winter conditions in the northern Himalayas, E. cinereus does not hibernate. It stays active all winter, searching for mosses and lichens on rocks and venturing into the boreal forests when buds and cones become available. Because of its large size and blunt claws which appear useless for gripping bark, E. cinereus seldom, if ever, ventures into trees. In general, flying squirrels are nocturnal, but the specific habit of E. cinereus is unknown.

Food Habits

The high crowned molars of E. cinereus indicate a diet of extremely rough vegetation. It appears that much of the diet consists of buds and cones, particularly those of the native spruce, Picea morinda. At high elevations, Picea morinda begins producing buds in April and cones in late summer. The cones are shed in winter when the ground is covered by snow, meaning that, by early spring, food for E. cinereus may be in extremely short supply. During these hard times, E. cinereus probably turns to mosses and lichens as a main food source.

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