Savage flying squirrels make big time


Ask what Savage is known for outside Howard County, and residents might say the Historic Savage Mill, the barbecue sauce at Ma's Kettle or the Savage Rocks, a popular hangout for teen-agers and adults.

But soon, the world may know the tiny town off U.S. 1 south of Route 32 for something even some locals might not know of -- flying squirrels.

The British Broadcasting Corp. plans to use footage of flying squirrels from Savage, Severna Park, Laurel and Wheaton as part of a nature film on flying squirrels around the world. The 30-minute film, expected to air next year, will focus mostly on flying squirrels in North America.

"They're amazing animals and good fun to watch," said Bernard Walton, the producer of the film, who visited the Savage area Saturday with cameramen Mark Yates to shoot videotape of the squirrels. "They're very, very cute."

Mr. Walton said the film will include the squirrels' feeding and breeding habits, as well as how people enjoy watching them. There are no flying squirrels in England, so Mr. Walton said he was particularly interested in capturing them on film.

He chose Savage as a location after Barbara Davis, who co-owns Columbia's Wild Bird Center with her husband, Phil, told him about some videos one of the town's residents made of flying squirrels.

Savage resident Carleton Evans Arnold Sr., who died in March 1993, had taken pictures of flying squirrels in his backyard, making two videos: "Barny I" and "Barny II."

Mr. Arnold's videos include the star, "Barny" the squirrel, going off to fight in Desert Storm. In the tape, Barny sits in a model fighter plane. He eats sunflower seeds as Whitney Houston's version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" blares in the background.

"The people from England said it was a 'real cracker,' " said Jan Arnold, Mr. Arnold's wife. "I don't know what that means. I presumed they liked it."

The North American flying squirrel resembles a chipmunk, has a flat tail and a button nose.

Flying squirrels don't actually fly -- they glide from tree to tree. Some travel as far as 330 feet.

"It's basically a form of hang-gliding," Mr. Walton said.

Mr. Arnold began making videos of the squirrels four years ago when his family gave him a video recorder for his birthday, after a heart attack and bypass surgery in 1989.

"Every night they would come down," Ms. Arnold said.

Mr. Arnold would turn on country music, place sunflower seeds in a feeder and film the nocturnal creatures with his video camera.

"There was a person who had suffered an awful lot in life and had almost given up on life," Mr. Walton said. "Once he discovered these animals, they picked him up. They made him think about life.

"When people see this film they'll be touched, too," he said.

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