Caring for sugar gliders

This information should be used as a guide only. You will need specific information to properly care for injured wildlife.

Read more about rescuing and releasing animals in the Northern Territory (NT).

You need a permit to care for injured or rescued wildlife.

Background

The sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) is the only species of glider endemic to the NT. They are found across the Top End. They are not threatened.

Sugar gliders mostly come into care because of domestic animal attack. It’s important that sugar gliders are kept away from domestic animals during their recovery to keep their instinctive fear of predators. 

Some people keep squirrel gliders as pets. Squirrel gliders are not native to the NT. If you see one report it to Parks and Wildlife immediately.

Housing

Sugar gliders should be kept in a quiet, secure spot away from family pets and loud noise. This includes general household noise, traffic, domestic animals and construction.

Orphaned sugar gliders

Orphaned sugar gliders should be kept in an artificial pouch resting against a heat pad set at 30 degrees Celsius to 32 degrees Celsius.

As the glider develops fur, it should be kept in a small enclosure to allow climbing. 

When the glider is spending a lot of time outside the pouch, provide a nest box or tree hollow for it to rest in. As the glider grows, increase the size of the cage to encourage natural behaviours. 

Adult sugar gliders

Adult sugar gliders can be housed in an enclosure that is 3.5m long by 3.5m wide and 3.5m high. The space must be arranged so the glider doesn’t feel threatened when you enter to feed or clean. 

Mesh size is important because gliders can injure themselves trying to escape through larger mesh. They can get their claws stuck in smaller mesh. Mesh of 5mm by 5mm will stop escape and injury and will also keep snakes out.

Don’t let gliders breed while they are in care.

The enclosure should do all of the following:

  • be similar to the glider's natural environment
  • have tree trunks with a circumference larger than the glider’s climbing grip
  • have a mixture of stable and flexible climbing structures, such as wobbly branches and rope
  • have a natural floor with leaf litter and grasses
  • have places to put native food, such as branches with flowers and fruit
  • have nesting areas, including horizontal and vertical logs - the open end of the log should be higher to encourage upward movement when the animal is climbing out
  • have shelter to protect from Wet Season weather, heavy sun, or wind and temperature extremes - half the top and two of the sides should be covered
  • have private areas for sleeping and feeding
  • be secure so domestic pets and other predators can’t get in
  • include items to stimulate the gliders
  • be cleaned daily and disinfected between inhabitants.

Feeding

In the wild, sugar gliders feed on sap, insects, nectar, pollen and fruit. 

In captivity, gliders can be kept on a diet of insects and fruits and vegetables. This includes green vegetables, sweet potato, carrots, apple, pear, banana, melon and tropical fruits.

Their diet can include blossoms, flowers, seeds, nuts and a high-protein supplement.

Formula for sugar glider joeys

Orphaned sugar glider joeys need to be fed a special milk formula according to their growth stage.

Glider joeys should never be fed regular cow’s milk as lactose will cause diarrhoea, slow their growth and may lead to death.

There are three brands of formula on the market, which are Wombaroo Possum Milk, Biolac M100 and Di-Vetelact. Follow the directions on the packaging for feeding.

Formulas can be purchased from vet clinics, pet shops or from the manufacturers.

Furless gliders will need special care and around-the-clock feeding. Follow the guidelines below.

  • furless - eight feeds over 24 hours with milk formula only
  • just furring - four to six feeds over 24 hours with milk formula, start to offer solids like soft fruits
  • short, thick fur - three to four milk feeds over 24 hours, offer solids, soft insects and native plants like flowers and fruit, and give water
  • thick fur - two to three milk feeds over 24 hours, feed solids, insects and native plants, and give water
  • thick fur and active at night only - one milk feed in 24 hours in the evening, offer solids and native plants, and give water
  • final stage rehabilitation - offer insects and native plants once at night, and give water.

Feeding adults

When feeding, move the food bowls around the enclosure or try spreading the food around in small amounts. 

Don't place food on the ground as this will make them easier prey in the wild. It’s not normal for gliders to spend time on the ground.

Set up a light inside or near the enclosure to attract insects for your glider to catch. Exercise and the right diet will stop gliders from becoming obese.

Before release, the glider’s diet should be made as natural as possible. Use local vegetation like fresh acacia sap, eucalypt blossoms and grevillea flowers.

Consider the release site and, if possible, provide the same vegetation to develop a natural diet for the glider.

Gliders need fresh water daily.

Capture and handling

Handle sugar gliders as little as possible. 

They can be aggressive and bite. They are usually best captured in a pillow case. Wear a glove and put your hand in the pillow case to hold the glider. When you have the animal, pull the pillow case over your hand and over the glider. 

Another method is to wrap the glider in a towel or small blanket.

Transport

For short distances, transport sugar gliders inside a pillow case. For longer distances, use a secure box with ventilation and clean, dry bedding.

Contact

For more information contact Wildlife Operations in your region.

Last updated: 27 June 2017