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Squirrel Glider

Petaurus norfolcensis

The Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) is often confused with the smaller and closely related Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps), both of which can occur within the same habitat areas. Until fairly recently the Squirrel Glider was thought to occupy the woodlands and forests west of the Great Dividing Range, while the Sugar Glider was known to be present in the Coastal Forests.  However the distribution of these species is not so simple. With the completion of more detailed surveys and research, populations of Squirrel Gliders have been identified throughout the coastal forests and woodlands of New South Wales. The Squirrel Glider has now been identified in suitable habitat generally north from Forresters Beach (in the Gosford LGA) to West Wallsend (in Lake Macquarie LGA).

Conservation Status

Listed as vulnerable in NSW under Schedule 2 of the Threatened Species Conservation (TSC) Act 1995.

Description

  • Squirrel Glider photo 1A nocturnal medium-sized gliding possum, with a fur covered skin membrane (patagium) stretched between its front and back legs.
  • Upperparts are pearl-grey with a blackish midline from between the eyes to the lower back. Underparts are white with long furry grey tail graduating into black at the tip.
  • Head and body length 170-230mm, tail length 220-300mm. Weight generally between 190-300 grams.
  • Easily confused with the smaller Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps), which often has a white tip to its tail, a more rounded head shape and a thinner tail.

Other Characteristic Features

Behaviour: A tree dwelling (arboreal), nocturnal species that is very active, particularly when foraging.

Scats: Small elongated pellets, approximately 10mm in length.

Calls: Gurgling calls only (never yaps like the Sugar Glider). Visit the NSW Threatened Species website to listen to the call.

Tree Marks: Scratches on tree trunks. Sap feeding marks on trees.

Diet

  • Pollen and nectar from flowering trees and shrubs.
  • Invertebrates such as insects foraged from leaves, flowers and bark.
  • Tree sap derived from incisions made on the trunk of eucalypt trees with their sharp teeth allowing sap to flow. Feeding scars usually appear as horizontal linear scars on tree trunks or branches.
  • Locally prefers sap from Red Bloodwoods (Corymbia gummifera).

Life History & Reproduction

  • Lives within family groups of up to nine individuals, typically with one mature male and two or more females and offspring.
  • Females are known to live for between 5 to 6 years.
  • Nesting or denning occurs in tree hollows lined with leaves to form a nest.
  • Breeding occurs from June to January, usually raising 1 to 2 offspring annually, which are weaned after 4 months. Young reach independence by 10 months.

Preferred Habitat

  • Habitat preferences vary: In the Wyong area they prefer dryer sclerophyll forest, whereas in Lake Macquarie they are known to occur in dry and wet sclerophyll forest. In the Gosford Local Government Area (LGA) they appear to be absent from the dense coastal forests.
  • Requires stands of open forest with reasonably connected tree canopies to glide between.
  • Mixed eucalypt forests with food sources such as Banksia and Acacia understorey.
  • Requires tree hollows for shelter and breeding, preferring hollows with small entry holes (<50mm diameter).

Where this Species can be Found

Map of distribution (PDF file, 3.1Mb)

Gosford: No confirmed recent records within the Gosford LGA. May possibly be found near Forresters Beach.

Wyong: Wadalba Wildlife Corridor, Wadalba; Bushland areas of Wyong Regional Sporting
Complex, Pollock Ave, North Wyong; Munmorah SRA Birdie Beach Drive, Lake Munmorah.

Lake Macquarie: Mt Waring Reserve, Ridge Road, Kilaben Bay; Cocked Hat Creek Reserve, Durham Drive, Cameron Park Reserve; Fishery Point Road, Yarrawonga Park.

Where is this species habitat protected?

Gosford: Brisbane Water National Park (NP), Mangrove Creek Catchment Area, Bouddi NP, Dharug NP, Yengo NP.

Wyong: Wadalba Wildlife Corridor, Jilliby State Conservation Area.

Lake Macquarie: Lake Macquarie State Conservation Area, Awaba State Forest.

Threats to survival

  • Clearing and fragmentation of habitat.
  • Predation by feral animals such as foxes, cats and dogs.
  • Vehicle impact where roads cut the canopy and gliding distance is beyond reach.
  • Loss of mature, old growth, hollow bearing trees.
  • Loss of nest sites and food resources through frequent fire.
  • Human barriers/constructions, particularly barbed-wire fences where gliders become entangled on the barbs.
  • Competition for nesting hollows with Indian Mynas, feral bees and parrots.

Management Issues

  • Protection and management of habitat is a key to the continued existence of this species.
  • Feral animal control and management in areas of known populations.
  • Retention and creation of vegetation corridors between feeding areas.
  • Installation and maintenance of hollows and nest boxes in altered habitats.
  • Protection of hollow bearing trees.
  • Erect replacement nest boxes in reserves with low numbers of tree hollows.

Useful Web links:

Further Reading:

  • Ross, L. Goldingay & S. M. Jackson (Eds) 2004. The Biology of Australian Possums and Gliders. Surrey Beatty & Sons. NSW.
  • Strahan. R. (Ed) (1998), ‘The Mammals of Australia’, Reed Holland Publishers, Carlton, VIC.
  • Lindenmayer. D. (2002), ‘Gliders of Australia: A Natural History’ UNSW Press, Sydney, NSW.
  • Triggs, B. (1996), ‘Tracks, Scats & Other Traces: A Field Guide to Australian Mammals’, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Menkhorst, P. & Knight, P. 2001. ‘A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia’, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • DEC (2006), ’NSW Wildlife Atlas Database Search’, Department of Environment & Conservation, Hurstville.