Northern Flying Squirrel
(Glaucomys sabrinus yukonensis)
Flying squirrels are important to forest regeneration and timber production because they disperse spores of ectomycorrhizal fungi like truffles. Truffles are fruiting bodies of a special type of fungus that matures underground. They are dependent upon animals to smell them out, dig them up, consume them, and disperse their spores in fecal material where the animal travels. The animal serves to inoculate disturbed sites (e.g., clearcuts, burned areas) with mycorrhizae that join symbiotically with plant roots and enhance their ability to absorb nutrients and maintain health. The flying squirrel's ecological role in forest ecosystems, therefore, gives it economic value. In addition, they may be important prey for a variety of hawks, owls, small carnivores, and furbearers like marten, lynx, and red fox. Many Alaskans value flying squirrels just for their interesting habits and aesthetic qualities.