We were driving home one night just on dark and were just past a small bridge when we came across an animal lying on the road. The bridge crosses a creek which is flanked by native vegetation and we were aware that it was a favourite spot for wildlife, so something on the road was not really an unusual event (although it is always sad).
However, the animal looked remarkably like a Sugar Glider or a Squirrel Glider. I had never seen one of these creatures, (except in books!) so out of curiosity, we stopped to have a look. Incredibly it was alive, but not moving – it was totally unconscious. It had no signs of having been hurt, so was quite perplexing.
We figured that it had probably been trying to get across the road and had got hit by a passing vehicle. With the constant threat of feral cats, we could not just leave it there, so we brought it home to see if we could revive it.
I put it into a box lined with soft fabric and we left it in the laundry with the lights off (they are nocturnal, so I figured it would be happier in the dark). I was not sure whether it was a Sugar Glider or a Squirrel Glider, so went to consult my mammal book and it seems the lovely bushy, dark tail is a feature of the Squirrel Gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis).
Squirrel Gliders have become rather rare (and threatened) in our area, so finding this little creature was a real treat. They live in hollows in dead trees – the latter are unfortunately are also ideal for domestic firewood (‘free’ heating). I am sure that most people who remove dead trees for wood have no idea what they are destroying or they would not do it. Hollows also take decades to form, so cannot be easily replaced with replanting.
Gliders are interesting animals because they have a membrane between their front and rear feet and spread out their limbs to make ‘wings’ which they use to glide from tree to tree. They can use their tail to steer and change direction while in flight! They are marsupials which means that they have a pouch where the young ones live and feed on their mother’s milk for the first few months of their life. Our glider’s body was about 20cm (7.5 inches) long with a tail about 28cm (11 inches) in length, so it was quite large.
After about a hour, I went to check on the glider and to my delight it had recovered and was sitting up and looking about with interest. It was still a bit groggy, so we were able to put it onto the laundry bench and quickly get some photos. But I was more concerned about it panicking and suddenly trying to get away (thereby getting hurt again), so the photos were unfocussed and appalling quality (and the setting a bit unimaginative!) But they are the only ones I have and they are amongst my favourite animal photos, so here they are, fuzziness and all!
Before the little animal got too excited and anxious, we again wrapped it in a soft cloth and took it back to the bridge where we found it where we let it go. It wasted no time going up the nearest tree and sat peering at us from a lower branch.
It had been a good night for us and for our Squirrel Glider.
This story was posted in response to the Travel Challenge: Animals on Where’s my backpack? If you wish to see some exquisite images of other animals (including a duck swimming on a pond that looks remarkably like a painting!) please visit Ailsa’s website and the many others listed in the comments section.
You can find more information about Squirrel Gliders on Wikipedia as well as many other Australian wildlife websites.