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Northern Short-tailed Shrews

2-4-15  northern short-tailed shrew 025Northern short-tailed shrews, with their short legs, minute eyes and concealed ears, can be found throughout eastern and central U.S. Their eyesight is so poor that all they can do is to detect light, but they compensate by using echolocation for navigation and to locate earthworms, slugs, snails and other invertebrates which comprise their diet. The northern short-tailed shrew and the European water shrew are the only mammals that produce a toxic secretion in their salivary glands. This poison is powerful enough to kill small mammals, but is mainly used to immobilize smaller prey. In winter, although active, the short-tailed shrew limits its activity in order to conserve energy, and relies partially on food that it stored in its burrow in the fall.

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13 responses

  1. Suzanne

    Wow, how did you get that picture?

    Sent from my iPad


    February 2, 2015 at 9:33 am

  2. Slow lorises are another mammal with a toxic bite. The toxin is, I believe, produced by a gland on their arm, and activated by mixing with saliva when the loris licks the gland, so the mechanism is different.

    February 2, 2015 at 9:44 am

  3. Sarah Gilson

    Ah those mornings waiting for the bus…….

    February 2, 2015 at 10:15 am

  4. Marilyn

    The little shrew has such a lovely fur coat!

    February 2, 2015 at 1:01 pm

  5. What a simply marvelous photograph of this wee creature! I have them all around the old farmhouse here, an occasional glimpse now and then – so lovely seeing more of them, as it were, in this photograph!

    February 2, 2015 at 3:53 pm

  6. It must have an interesting larder… would you prefer dried earthworm or slug jerky? 😉

    February 2, 2015 at 7:04 pm

  7. We have a bold little shrew sharing our home this winter. It has burrowed up into my lap blanket twice now without my noticing, only running away when I move.

    February 2, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    • Years ago my daughter had a parrot who would drop tons of food on the floor, and we had a shrew that took advantage of this windfall every day…unfortunately, it bit our basset hound who suffered a very swollen lip a a result!

      February 2, 2015 at 10:29 pm

  8. Jean Preis

    Hello Mary,
    Do you know if it’s safe to feed birds pork fat instead of beef fat suet? In winter, in Maine, it would remain quite firm, so should not damage feathers.

    February 3, 2015 at 8:58 am

    • Hi Jean,
      I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your question. I know that bacon fat is not supposed to be fed to birds, due to carcinogenic nitrosamines that are formed from some of the preservatives used in bacon, but as for other pork fat, I honestly don’t know its affect on birds. Perhaps a reader of this blog will know.

      February 3, 2015 at 9:19 am

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