Hougen Group

Yukon Flying Squirrel

My Dad used to say that this or that would happen when pigs fly. Pigs can't fly, I'd tell him. "It's just an old expression," he would say, frowning at my naiveté.

But squirrels can. Really? Yep, some can, and today we'll explore the lifestyle of a tiny creature whom you will seldom see. Just like flying pigs.

On the limb of a tall spruce tree in the dense Yukon forest, a tiny rodent - not much bigger than a mouse - prepares for a 50-metre journey through the air to a landing spot on another chosen tree. As it leaps into space, its four limbs spread wide, withloose fur-covered skin stretched out to create a parachute, the Northern Flying Squirrel glides along, twisting and turning through the trees.

The squirrel steers by adjusting the tightness of the skin flap and position of its front legs. The tail acts as a stabilizer, like the tail of a kite.

As the long journey nears its finale, the squirrel swoops up at the last moment, reducing its speed with air brakes - like a just-landed 737 - and settles gently on the branch.

It turns out this miracle of squirrel flying is not really flying. Instead, the Yukon Flying Squirrel is an accomplished glider. The tiny mammal is common in Yukon forests, but because it's a nocturnal owl, few Yukoners have ever seen one.

Because biologists have not studied the flying squirrel much in the Yukon, its distribution is not well known. Still, they say there are plenty of them around.

You've all seen red squirrels. Well, the flying guy is about half that size, weighing in at about 100 grams, the size of a big chocolate bar. Brown-grey fur on the top of its body contrasts sharply with the pale, cream-coloured underparts.

The loose skin that runs from the wrist to ankle means the little guy is not very agile on the ground, but a thing of beauty in the air. With the help of its flattened tail, the flying squirrel can bank and turn in mid-glide. The large bright eyes help give the flying squirrel a unique appearance.

Like all squirrels, the young are born in a tree in spring. Sometimes a mother will glide while holding one of the young in her mouth.

Unlike red squirrels, flying squirrels are very sociable. As many as twenty flying squirrels have been found sleeping in a single communal winter nest.

So you ask, how can I see this tiny creature that only comes out at night. Well, usually you don't, but some observers have reported seeing flying squirrels as they land softly on a bird feeder.

I saw one in the small forest above the clay cliffs many years ago. What kind of bird looks like a mouse, I later asked my Dad.

Dunno know, he said, but if you think you saw such a creature, the next thing you'll be telling me is that pigs can fly.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin

 


See also: Ground Squirrels

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Source: National Geographic.

Ground Squirrels

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the ground squirrel is? Well, by mid-April or early May, these indicators of Yukon spring will be everywhere - along the roadsides, standing straight up watching and talking. Most people call them gophers and that's OK, but they really are squirrels.

You'll be happy to see them too, because they have been well hidden in their burrows under the deep snow since mid-September. Ground squirrels live all over the Yukon, from southern meadows to the Arctic coastal plain and from sea level to above 2000 meters - or 6000 feet. They like ground that has sandy soil because it makes digging easy and quickly drains spring flood waters and the heavy summer rain.

The ground squirrel is built for life close to the land, with stubby legs and powerful claws which makes them natural diggers. These digs or burrows are their colonies, where the dominant male controls the territory.

A colony's burrow may have fifty entrances and a maze of tunnels that are used year after year. In winter, arctic ground squirrels go into deep hibernation and their body temperature falls to near 0°C.

They are the only mammals known to allow their body temperatures to drop below freezing. By super cooling in hibernation, they save lots of energy needed for the long winter snooze and early spring romps when food is scarce.

In the spring mating season, encounters between males gets downright nasty and can turn into a boundary brawl. The fighters roll around in a ball and sometimes can be hurt quite badly. The winner earns the right to mate with the females residing in their hard-won space. Females come out one to two weeks after males do, and are ready to mate within a few days.

The young are tiny, but grow up fast. At twenty days, their eyes are open. Soon after, the young squirrels make their outside debut.

 

Female Arctic ground squirrels produce a single litter of five to ten young each year. To protect their offspring, mothers move them to different burrows and forcefully defend them from marauding predators, including strange squirrels. A Yukon study proved that male intruders from other colonies sometimes kill the young.

 

If a coyote comes by, the ground squirrel exhibits its native name by chattering "sik-sik-sik".

They often sit on rocks or brush piles, always on the lookout. So keep an eye out for them, and take some time to enjoy their antics. They are a hoot to watch as one of the Yukon's natural summer treasures.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin



See also: Yukon Flying Squirrel

1990a1

Rolf Hougen chaired a meeting of the India-Canada Business Council in New Delhi.1989.

1990a2

A side trip to Agra to see the magnificient Taj Mahal. November 1989.

Hougen’s Travels

From Glasnost in the Soviet Union, to progress in India, outgoing Chamber Chairman Rolf Hougen advises Canadian businesses to seize the opportunities while history is on the move.

As Chairman of the Canadian Chamber, leading foreign business groups is part of the responsibilities. The following four photos illustrate one of the trips. This one in November.

In New Delhi India meetings were held with senior business leaders. Other meetings were in Bombay.

A side trip to Agra, south of New Delhi to visit the Taj Mahal was worth the scary, noisy honking, swerving trip in an older car with a sleepy driver, dodging people, carts, pigs, dogs, scooters with several swerves into a ditch; exciting?
1990a3

As part of the busy business agenda, several luncheons and dinners were held in Moscow.

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in Moscow

Moscow, with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's entourage, was interesting partly due to the transition going on from Communism to the private enterprise. Shown left is Mulroney with President of the USSR Ryzhkov who invited us to dine in the Kremlin.
1990a4

Zagorsk Monastery, 1989.

Zagorsk Monastery, Moscow

About 70km from Moscow is the 15th century monastery Zagorsk. It is the administrative centre of the Russian Orthodox Church. It was a walled fortress. It snowed while Marg and Rolf were visiting - see photo right.
1990b

The Chamber Meets the Queen, 1990.

The Chamber Meets the Queen

For the first time ever, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce was part of the Nation's Birthday celebrations on Parliament Hill. And the part the business group played, was as co-sponsor of the special 1990 commemorative stamp with Canada Post Corporation. Canadian Chamber of Commerce Chairman Rolf Hougen and Canada Post Chairman and CEO Donald Lander presented the stamp to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. A "magic" button was pressed by the Queen, revealing the stamp to the thousands who gathered on Parliament Hill or tuned into the live television coverage. Never before has a reigning monarch unveiled a Canadian Stamp. The stamp celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Canadian flag. It depicts the flag fluttering against a sky full of fireworks. The flag became official on Feb. 15, 1965 after lengthy debate. At the time, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce supported the adoption of the new flag as a symbol of Canadian unity. Later, the Chamber also actively supported the designation of July 1 as Canada Day, rather than Dominion Day as it was formerly known.
1990c

Canadian Chamber of Commerce

The Canadian Chamber has strong ties to Taiwan, fulfilling many functions that would be handled by the diplomatic corps. Canada does not officially recognize Taiwan and does not have an embassy in Taipei. 2nd from right, Rolf Hougen, who headed the delegation to Taiwan.
1990d

U. S. Chamber of Commerce

Every year the Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce attends the annual meeting of the Canadian Chamber. The picture on the right shows Rolf and Marg Hougen viewing Capitol Hill in Washington during a visit to see Derek Burney, Canadian Ambassador to Washington and to attend the U.S. Chamber annual meeting.
1990e

Toni Onley, Artist

In July of 1990 Marg and Rolf Hougen made arrangements for Toni Onley, the Vancouver based water colour artist to spend time in the Yukon painting scenes in various locations. To the right is Ted Harrison and Toni Onley at a reception in the Hougen home.
1990f1

Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn presenting the Order of Canada medal to Annie Ned.

Order of Canada medal to Annie Ned

Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn presented the Order of Canada medal to Annie Ned, mother of Elijah Smith, at a ceremony in the foyer of the Yukon Government Building.

1990f2

Annie Ned.

Annie Ned, C.M.

A respected Elder of the Aboriginal community, Annie Ned, C.M. has spent a lifetime maintainig and promoting the culture and language of her people. Her recounting of stories and legens and her active participation in various cultural events helped preserve the link between the Yukon's past and present generations. She worked with the Annie Ned dancers and was co-author with Julie Cruikshank, Angela Sydney and Kitty Smith of "Life Lived Like a Story".

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One of the barges we rented - and crewed ourselves.

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Our stating point on the Saône River.

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On a bus tour of the Burgundy wine country.

Hougen Travels in France

Following the annual meeting in Edmonton of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Rolf’s duties as Chairman came to an end, Marg & Rolf took the family – 14 in all and 3 week old Patrick Bell – to St Jean de Losne on the Saone River, east of Dijon, France. They rented two barges and spent the next ten days sampling the great food and wine of Burgundy ending the trip in Macon, France.
Along the river they visited historic sites, and took side trips into the wine country and to the city of Beaune. Long time friends were visited, Michel and Martha Couvreur of Bouze Les Beaune and the famous Mommessin family of Macon. Following the barge trip the family scattered and traveled to other regions of France including Chamonix and the Alsace.