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Northern Short-tailed Shrew Blarina brevicauda


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Northern Short-tailed Shrew
credit: Gilles Gonthier from Canada/CCSA

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Family: Soricidae, Shrews view all from this family

Description Solid gray above and below with short tail, the largest shrew in North America.

Dimensions 95-139mm, 17-32mm, 11-30g

Warning The shrews of the genus Blarina are unique among mammals in producing poison in their salivary glands. The saliva is not dangerous to humans, but a bite may swell and be painful for several days.

Similar Species Southern Short-tailed Shrew noticeably smaller. Least Shrew fur grayish brown or brownish.

Breeding Mating occurs from March through September, though most births occur early or late in that period. Gestation lasts 21-22 days, and after birth the 4-7 young nurse for up to 25 days. Two litters per season are typical. The young, born hairless and blind, weigh less than a gram and may become sexually mature in as soon as 2-3 months.

Habitat Forests & woodlands, Grasslands & prairies, Meadows & fields, Scrub, shrub & brushlands, Swamps, marshes & bogs

Range Plains, Great Lakes, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Florida, Eastern Canada, Western Canada

Discussion Its ability to consume almost anything it can catch allows the Northern Short-tailed Shrew to survive the cold winters of temperate regions. Other shrews spend more time above ground than does the Northern Short-tailed Shrew, which prefers to tunnel along below ground, through the leaf litter, or at the snow/ground interface. Bouts of frenzied activity, lasting approximately five minutes, are followed by longer periods of resting, with the total active time amounting to only 16% of a 24-hour day. The shrew constructs a nest up to 20 centimeters (8 inches) in diameter underground or underneath a log, and lines it with leaves or the fur of the Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus).This nest is kept clean, with wastes deposited outside the nest in a latrine area. Other parts of the burrow system are used for food storage.