Though not really bears, sugar bears are just as likely to tug at your heart as a teddy bear might. Also known as sugar gliders, these tiny Australian marsupials’ scientific name is Petaurus breviceps (literally, “short-headed rope-dancer”).
Weighing less than six ounces and measuring 6.3 to 7.5 inches, sugar gliders are tiny pocket pets with very long tails—often as long as the animals’ very bodies. Fur can range between soft to dark gray, usually with black and white patches, though there are also albino varieties.
Since it’s not an endangered animal, the sugar glider is a domestic pet in many countries outside of Australia. (It is illegal to keep a sugar glider as a pet without a permit in the country.) A highly active and curious creature, it does need a lot of love and care—at least two hours of attention each day. It also bonds well to humans and enjoys companionship.
It is legal to have a sugar glider as a pet in every state except California. Restrictions on keeping sugar gliders are also present in Pennsylvania, but it is legal to keep them as domestic pets in the state.
Social and loveable creatures, sugar gliders can make as an ideal pet as a hamster might. They do need more room to move than a hamster, however, and there are a variety of large cages and accessories on the market for this very purpose. Sugar gliders can live up to fifteen years in captivity, making them a hardier pet than hamsters.
Though not labeled as an exotic pet, sugar gliders’ breeding is regulated by the USDA. The creatures do breed well, which may account for their strong survival despite large habitat losses in Australia. They have no specified breeding season in some areas; in others, it is in June and July. Mothers typically produce two babies and, as marsupials, they remain in their mother’s pouch for approximately 70 days before moving into the family nest.
Like flying squirrels, sugar gliders have excess skin between their wrist and ankle, called patagium, which enables them to glide on air, almost as if they are flying.
When you care for a sugar glider, be sure to leave its tail alone, as it is a fragile part of the animal that can easily lose fur and die. Sugar gliders also have sharp teeth and claws that are capable of harm, so use caution, and perhaps gloves, during handling.