• Manassas National Battlefield Park


    National Battlefield Park Virginia


Flying grey squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Bryan Gorsira

Within Manassas National Battlefield Park mammals are protected from hunting pressure and surrounding urban development. The fragmented forests interspersed with shrubs and meadows are good habitats for mammals such as White-tailed Deer, Eastern Fox Squirrels, Eastern Chipmunks, Eastern Cottontails, Short-tailed Shrews, and the Eastern Mole. Some are more specialized in their habitat needs, like the Red Fox which prefers open, shrubby, and brushy areas.


There are 4,600+ mammal species in the world and more are still being discovered. Fossil evidence dates back to the Mesozoic Era, Triassic Period which is about 248 million years ago. Mammals are unified under the broad kingdom Animalia and belong to the class Mammalia. What makes mammals distinct from other creatures is their ability to suckle young from mammary glands filled with nourishing milk, the presence of hair, and different skeletal features. Mammals are able to maintain a constant body temperature and give birth to live young. One order of mammals, the Chiroptera (bats), are capable of true winged flight. The order Cetacea includes aquatic mammals like whales, dolphins, and porpoises. As you can see, mammals have a great and wonderful variety of shapes and sizes and they occupy many different niches in the environment.

One prominent mammal in Manassas National Battlefield Park is the White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). White-tailed deer are part of the order Artiodactyla which means "even-toed". They have two weight-bearing, hoof-like appendages, possibly an adaptation for sprinting and running. They also have a four-chambered stomach, like cows, which allows them to better digest the plant food they eat. Males grow velvety antlers each summer that are shed each winter after the mating period. The antlers grow up and out to the sides then grow forward towards the center. White-tailed deer prefer open, mixed and hardwood forest habitats with forest edge near meadows and open shrub areas. They eat oak seedlings, red cedar, dogwood, pine, and many other woody species, plus honeysuckle, acorns, wild rose, native grasses and weeds, and other in-season plants. Deer even eat Poison Ivy, a native plant. Deer breed in the fall and winter and females birth young in the summer.

If you are walking softly, deer can be seen browsing along the wooded trails, meadows and shrubby areas of the park. If you get too close, the deer may let you know by sounding a quick, nasal exhale or all you may see is a white tail waving goodbye as the deer bounds away.

Another more elusive creature in the park is the Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans). Although this little mammal is a squirrel, it can be seen "gliding" from tree to tree. How does a squirrel glide? By extending its arms and legs like a bungee-jumper, the extra skin that connects them acts like a parachute in the wind. This action allows the squirrel to be airborne longer, jump a greater distance, and move more gently. The Southern Flying Squirrel is strictly nocturnal, unlike most squirrels. In the winter time, it will become more sociable with other flying squirrels in order to conserve body heat and better its chances of survival. They breed in February/March and again in June/July. Their young are born in April/May and August/September. Some people have the pleasure of having these harmless little creatures as houseguests, although seldom seen. An attic is a very suitable nest location because it provides protection from the elements (central heating) and protection from predators. Their call is a high pitched twitter.

Deer in Manassas National Battlefield Park
Deer roam the land as the sun sets over Manassas National Battlefield Park
NPS Photo

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