A type of possum called a sugar glider could have been spotted on Wimbledon Common for the first time.

Wildlife discussion boards have been inundated with comments about the cute looking creatures, with some people even claiming it could be another of Wimbledon Common's mythical creatures - the Womble.

Although it is believed the gliders have been living on the common for several years, more sightings have been recorded in the last few months.

Kolin Barnz, of Wandsworth, said: "While walking through Wimbledon Common, I saw an animal which I couldn't recognise.

"It was small and squirrel-like, with a bushy tail, and was eating nuts on the ground. Its face, however, looked more mouse-like with long whiskers, black eyes and small ears.

"When I moved, I obviously disturbed it and it scrambled up the nearest tree. When at the top, it leapt to the next one. As it did this, flaps of skin stretched between its front and hind legs and it glided to the next tree."

Sugar gliders were first noticed in 2000 and it appears they are breeding as there have been several sightings in different parts of the common.

According to one theory they were supposedly released into the wild by former owners who may not have wanted them as pets.

Although it is legal to keep them as pets in this country, it is illegal in other countries including America and Australia.

Tony Drakeford, local nature expert, said: "To be honest we think it could be a case of mistaken identity. Normal red and grey squirrels can also comfortably leap from tree to tree and it could just have been a grey.

"We've been monitoring the common for years now and haven't seen anything like this, but that's not to say they don't exist."

20 things you didn't know about sugar gliders

1. It is around 16 to 20 cm (6.3 to 7.5 inches) in length 2. It has a tail almost as long as the body and almost as thick as a human thumb.

3. The fur is generally pearl grey, with black and cream patches at the base of the blackor grey ears.

4. It has twin skin membranes called patagia which extend from the fifth finger of the forelimb back to the first toe of the hind foot.

5. The membranes are used to glide between trees and when fully extended they form an aerodynamic surface the size of a large handkerchief.

6. The sugar glider (Petaurus Breviceps) is a small gliding possum native to eastern and northern mainland Australia, New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and was introduced to Tasmania.

7. It has many predators such as goannas, foxes, cats and the marsupial carnivores, such as quolls, the Kowari, mulgaras and owls and kookaburras.

8. Although it looks rather clumsy, the sugar glider can glide for a surprisingly long distance and flights have been measured at more than 50 metres (150 feet).

9. It is a tree dwelling creature, often living in groups of 15 to 30.

10. It is active by night when it hunts for insects and small vertebrates and feeds on the sweet sap of certain species of eucalyptus, acacia and gum trees.

11. It is often mistaken for flying squirrels such as the flying fox.

12. Unlike many native animals, particularly smaller ones, the sugar glider is not endangered and, despite the massive loss of natural habitat in Australia over the past 200 years, it is highly adaptable.

13. The sugar glider is protected by law in Australia, where it is illegal to keep them as pets, or to capture or sell them without a licence.

14. Because they are very social creatures, often living in families in the wild, it is difficult to raise a single sugar glider in captivity, especially as it is rare for an owner to be up late at night to play with the creaures when they are most active.

15. In the US, keeping sugar gliders as pets is illegal in some jurisdictions, including California, Georgia, Hawaii, and Alaska - many other states require a permit.

16. Sugar glider's nest in a hollow of a tree, or in a nest made of twigs and leaves. A number of sugar gliders will inhabit the same nest.

17. When they glide, they spread their arms and legs out and float down to their landing. They use their long tail to help steer when gliding through the air.

18. These amazing little animals have taken their name from their ability to glide through the air and their love of sweet things such as sugar.

19. They also make a wide range of sounds such as chirping, barking, chattering, crabbing and other odd sounds that are hard to describe.

20. If you have a single glider, you need to pay attention to it for at least two hours every day. If the sugar glider becomes lonely, it will become depressed and eventually die. But they can live for 10-15 years if well cared for.

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