Northern shorttailed shrew

Blarina brevicauda

TAXONOMY

Blarina brevicauda (Say, 1823), Nebraska, United States. Phylo-geographic analysis showed a significant partitioning between eastern and western populations on either side of the Mississippi Basin.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Grande musaraigne a queue courte; German: Kurzschwanzspitzmaus.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Head and body length 3-4.1 in (7.5-10.5 cm); tail 0.7-1.2 in (1.7-3 cm); weight 0.5-1.1 oz (15-30 g). Soft gray fur. Short snout and tail.

DISTRIBUTION

Representatives of this genus live in North America today, but its fossil members have also been found in Europe and Asia. The present range in North America includes central and southern Saskatchewan to southeastern Canada, and southward to Nebraska and northern Virginia in the United States.

HABITAT

Tall, dense grass and/or deep woods with thick ground litter. May shelter in logs, stumps, or crevices of building foundations.

BEHAVIOR

The most fossorial of American shrews, but they are effective climbers. These shrews are active all year and are seen by day and night. In captivity, individuals seem to live together peacefully if provided enough room. In the wild it is a solitary territorial species. Populations contain both resident and nomadic components. Residents mark their ranges with scent and threaten and fight intruders. A variety of sounds and postures are employed during intraspecific threat situations; a clicking sound accompanies courtship behavior.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This shrew has an opportunistic way of feeding, with a large portion of predaceous habits included. The diet consists of invertebrates, small vertebrates (salamanders and anurans), and plant material. Toxic saliva enables the shrew to deal with rather

large prey that the saliva immobilizes. It stores snails, beetles, seeds, and other edibles where they can be retrieved later.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Promiscuous. The breeding season usually extends from early spring to early fall. There may be up to three litters per year. Litter size is 3-10, usually 5-7. Population density is about 1-12 individuals per acre (3-30 per hectare), and home range is about 0.5-2 acre (0.2-0.8 hectare). Few wild individuals survive for more than one year.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

It often serves as an important check on larch sawflies and other destructive insects. The poison produced by the submax-illary glands can cause pain for several days in humans. ♦

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