An Unusual-Looking Sugar Glider
I have to chuckle a lot when our customers are preparing for their new arrivals and say something like “send me some cute ones!” … And I chuckle inside because, seriously, is there such a thing as an ugly sugar glider?!
Well, recently we had a first time mom have two very unusual-looking joeys come out of pouch. Sadly, one of the little ones died shortly after birth. The remaining little guy is doing well, but he is one of the most unusual looking sugar gliders I have even seen. Our veterinarian suggested our survivor might have a rare thyroid condition. He may look different from all the other gliders, but he is a prefect little miracle!
At first, we were concerned this strange-looking glider might not make it either, but he persevered. Here at SunCoast, we never name gliders unless we plan to keep them around forever. Once someone has a name, it typically gets really personal at that point.
I liked the idea of naming him Prince Charming, but we ended up naming him Sean, which is the name of the handsome boyfriend of our part-time student intern. Our biggest hope was that Sean, the Sugar Glider, would make it; we also thought he might follow in the footsteps of his namesake and perhaps turn handsome in time!
Because Sean’s Mom had two rather odd babies in her first pregnancy, we have retired her very, very young because we don’t want to perpetuate such a thing. Our vet seems to think that there is an hereditary thyroid issue. It is hard to say for sure, but he has a very strong inclination to see that it is at least some sort of endocrine imbalance, meaning that finding a treatment may not be easy.
Sean has sort of a mange look, but it is not mange. I’ve seen something similar with very young, hand-reared joeys that are not kept clean and have a tendency to lose their hair. However, that seems to be more of a function of food getting stuck to them; and without a mother and father to keep them clean, it can cause some hair loss. But in that situation, their hair normally grows back fine when a human can help to keep them clean, teaching the joeys how to keep themselves clean. And once those joeys are able to live with other baby sugar gliders, they all help to keep each other clean.
I don’t see too many strange things with births around here, but when you’ve done this long enough, and with enough sugar gliders, Mother Nature tosses someone our way who may be less than perfect from time to time. Since we started in 1999, I’ve seen fewer a dozen “special” gliders, and often the odd thing was not life threatening. One such example were two babies born with one ear smaller than the other. When we see such a thing in more than one offspring, particularly in the same litter, it is safe to assume there is a genetic or inherited issue going on. This is one reason we are highly opposed to inbreeding animals (allowing family members to breed with each other); inbreeding brings out such traits much more frequently and it’s simply is not worth the risk.
Shortly after we named Sean, we were contacted by a sugar glider owner searching for a special sugar glider. While we hesitated to mention Sean, we did. And as they say, the rest is history. Sean is now named Yoda, in is new happy home, where he resides with two other sugar gliders and his “Mom tree”, Kim.
We have shared this story for two reasons: so other breeders have an example of the unusual things that can manifest when raising sugar gliders, and also to surface the topic of inbreeding. If you are buying a Male / Female pair of sugar gliders and think you might let them breed, ask the breeder and make sure they are unrelated.
Since Yoda (formerly Sean) been in his new home, I have been in contact with Kim several times. One thing I noticed about him is his body seemed noticeably warmer than other sugar gliders. Kim has noticed this as well. Even with his sparse hair, he is very warm. The vets we’ve spoken to agree this could be another very clear sign that the condition is thyroid based. Kim will be taking him in for another full checkup soon. And now, we wish to share the best news of all.
Yoda is growing, prospering, and most importantly being loved and cared for in the best way possible. I am grateful to all the people like Kim who have a soft spot for the less than perfect. I too am attracted to the misfits, and if Kim had not called me and specifically asked for a special needs glider, Yoda would still be here at the Sugar Shack with us, and answering to Sean, the handsome!
Foraging: A Natural Instinct
Sugar gliders are natural foragers. Mother Nature created them as colony dwellers, to live, play and forage amongst their own. In the wild, they must hunt and forage for their own food in order to survive, experiencing the normal feast or famine cycles of nature.
But when we keep gliders in captivity, food is always available. Most of us spoil our gliders, ensuring they not only have enough to eat, but also a healthy and satisfying variety. Nevertheless, all sugar gliders are born with a natural instinct to forage.
In the wild, sugar gliders can be seen stripping away tree bark, in search of insects and tree gums. This behavior requires a lot of time and energy. And although our gliders do not have to forage for survival, they still have oodles of energy that has to be utilized.
Therefore, as their caretakers, we should ensure our gliders have a means to satisfy the foraging experience. Because if less energy is being expended looking for food, we need to provide some way to “simulate” their innate desire to “hunt” for food.
Nothing fancy is required to accomplish this simple idea, known in zookeeping circles as behavioral enrichment. In fact, you can even turn dinnertime into an interactive foraging game every now and then. Try hiding a few pellets in different areas throughout the cage, like under a favorite toy, inside nesting material or even in a sleeping pouch. It’s kind of like an Easter egg hunt, sugar glider style!
Use some treats – sparingly – at nighttime. Drop a couple into a feeding cup and hide the cup inside a pouch. Foraging Cups are an especially quick and easy foraging tool. Or for a one-two punch, and then watch your glider furiously forage away, and then work off the calories by spinning. That’ll surely keep your fuzzbutt happy, healthy and stimulated!
“Pet Wanted” Classified Scams
Yesterday I was scammed by someone who said they would ship me their sugar gliders. I sent them money to do so and never heard from them again. This is the second time this has happened to me. I live paycheck to paycheck and losing any amount of money puts me in a serious bind. I can guarantee it is happening to others. So I had the idea that you guys, in a newsletter, might make people aware of this. Tell us how to prevent fraud. What questions we should ask and what not. I know I could use the help considering. Thank you.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the idea of people taking advantage of other people has been going on for much longer than there has been an “internet”. It is not something specific to the internet, but since we’ve all met as a result of the internet, I will do my best to help give you some general ideas on how to avoid the pet scammers out there.
The latest chapter in this story, unfortunately, is there are now “rings” of people out there using Pet Wanted classifieds as the basis for scams. Often based in Mexico or Africa, these rats pretend to have the pet you are seeking though online classifieds – any kind of pet – and then try to extract upfront cash for deposits, courier services, etc., while promising the transaction will take place at a later date.
We offer a private party listing service called Sugar Glider Exchangeto help find homes for older sugar gliders that folks can’t take care of anymore, and we are aware some people in the Exchange have been contacted by scammers. No website is immune to this and we do what we can to prevent it from happening. We physically do all the postings to prevent automated submissions, which the theft rings frequently use to attract buyers. And we use a number of “behind the scenes” security checks to identify likely fraudsters.
Still, internet fraud can be quite sophisticated, so we share a specific warning on the Glider Exchange page. It goes like this:
Be careful, scammers are out there, just like they are for any online listing of this kind. Your safest bet is to meet in person to exchange goods and payment; be extra careful with anyone asking you to wire them money, including use of Western Union, MoneyGram, etc.
So what else can you do to protect yourself?
Primarily, ask for secure payment options with fraud protection or turn down the deal. Credit cards are the most obvious route, but not every legitimate pet seller can process a credit card. A great alternative to credit cards is PayPal, which offers buyer protection if your transaction ends up going wrong, and it’s easy for buyer or seller to set up an account. If the seller is not willing to accommodate your very reasonable expectation of having some payment security assurances, then walk away from the transaction.
Not long ago, I ran an ad on craigslist.com to sell a piece of high end exercise equipment. I got a call and was told by the caller that he wanted the item and would pay my asking price. He then proceeded to tell me that he is a merchant marine and that he would send a courier service over to pick up the equipment. He said that the courier would bring a cashier’s check and would that be ok with me?
This is a common payment scam being run by some of the less than scrupulous. Often the scam includes some common denominators like “I will send a courier service”. Also, the scam might involve a cashier’s check for more than what is owed and they ask for change.
These checks are often forgeries and will be rejected by the bank when you try to deposit it. So then, you’re out whatever item you were selling, AND you gave them cash. Because this is one type of scam that has been happening for years, I didn’t fall for it. Besides, I really could use more exercise and have decided to keep my machine. So now I still have my machine and my cash!
Also, people can get sucked into a bogus deal when the scam artist starts tugging on the heart strings, and this is particularly true in pet scams. If there is too much urgency in the need to do the sale fast, be wary. They may tell you anything, like I lost my home and I have to be out in two days and I have to find homes for my animals right away! People do get themselves into desperate situations from time to time, but a crisis in one person’s life does not create one for you.
If you think the person is being truthful about their hard luck, suggest they find protection for the animals so they can focus on taking care of themselves. For example, most communities have “no kill” shelters, and while not all of them take in exotic animals, many will at least offer referrals. Vet offices may also be able to offer referrals in such situations. Just know in advance that scammers often use heart tugging stories and urgency to get you to take the bait.
I hope the various “tip-offs to rip-offs” and suggestions above keep you out of the hands of the Pet Wanted scammers out there.
‘Til next time, in good health for you and your gliders, we sign off in appreciation of all of you who share great glider adventures with us!