This is another of those posts that some of you may find difficult. It involves a dead animal. But, quite often, it's possible to get clearer pictures when a small animal is still. I'll show you no gore, so take a look at this small mammal.
First of all, shrews are the smallest North American mammal, but this one, the Northern Short-tailed Shrew, Blarina brevicauda, is the largest of them. The overall length of this one, not counting it's tail, is under three inches long.
This is the most natural pose I can show you, since it was already stiffened when I found it.
First of all, how do I know it's a shrew? The small size and short tail narrows it to a vole or a shrew (mice have long tails). If it were a vole it would have large ears and a less-pointed nose. It would probably also look more brown than dark gray, although I've seen voles that are quite gray.
Here's a side view, and you can really see the pointed nose.
That darker spot between the front and back legs is where the fur is matted from one small bite wound that killed it. More on that in a bit. You can also tell in this view that the ears just don't show at all, really.
Finally, here's a view for scale
Makes my finger look huge, doesn't it? Note the very cute little foot.
Also look at the nose. See the smear of dried blood? I suspect that this little guy took a nip out of whatever got it. Although most any animal might try to bite if attacked, shrews are noted for being fierce. In fact, the first shrew I met, as a child, had been cornered by the dog. Of course, I tried to get as close as I could, and the shrew jumped right at me and bit my hand!
Now, you might wonder why an animal would kill this shrew and then not eat it. It might have been the fox, or a weasel. The hawk might have killed it, although the wound seems small for that option.
Shrews taste terrible. (I take this from research, not personal experience.) They have musk glands on their sides and bellies that give off a nasty scent . This shrew gave its life, but whoever killed it learned a lesson about attacking other shrews.
In life, they can attack animals larger than they are because their saliva contains a toxin that causes partial paralysis. And their bites are very painful to larger animals. I do remember that its bite did hurt more than nips from mice or garter snakes.
Even the lowly shrew has an important niche to fill. Each one can eat as much as three times its body weight in a day. They mostly eat insects and larvae, so help keep these in check from doing too much damage to grain crops.
Even though it's not living, I'm pleased to be able to show you another of our native mammals.
|if you like this blog, click the +1 |