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Species Description

Southern Short-tailed Shrew

Blarina carolinensis


Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Insectivora
Family: Soricidae

Description

This shrew is covered with short, dense, velvety fur which is grayish to grayish black. The belly is slightly paler. Southern Short-tailed Shrews are somewhat smaller, 7.9 - 12.3 cm (3.1 - 4.8 in). The body is cylindrical. The snout is pointed. Eyes and ears are very small, the ears being hidden by fur. A unique character of Short-tailed Shrews is the pair of glands on the flanks and rump which secrete a strong odor.

Life Cycle

The breeding season for this species begins in late winter and continues through the warm months, with a peak of activity in late summer. About 22 days after mating, 4 - 10 (average 6 - 7) young shrews are born. They are reared in nests, which are 10 - 15 cm (3.9 - 5.9 in) in diameter, made of grasses and plant fibers, and placed under logs or rocks or in burrows. Young are weaned at 3 weeks of age. Females born early in the year may breed that same year. Females may produce 3 - 4 litters per year.

Natural History

Shrews are nocturnal and crepuscular, and are only seen during daylight hours on cloudy days. When active, shrews are constantly on the prowl for food. They must consume their total body weight in food each day to survive, for they have the highest metabolic rate of any mammal in North America. (Their pulse rate has been measured at 700 beats per minute). Shrews have toxic saliva which can paralyze and kill a mouse-size prey animal within 3 - 5 minutes after it is bitten. Shrews hunt in burrows or just under leaf litter. They will use the burrows or runways of other small mammals at or just below the soil surface, but also make their own under logs, vegetation, or leaf litter. Some burrows may be as deep as 51 cm (20 in). Short-tailed Shrews feed on worms, snails, grubs, insects, slugs, centipedes, spiders, and small vertebrates. Predators upon shrews include snakes, owls, and hawks. To repel predators and to communicate an individual's breeding status and territorial boundaries, Short-tailed Shrews secrete a strong odor from glands on the flanks and rump. Shrews also communicate by clicks and squeaks. The maximum lifespan for Short-tailed Shrews is two years.

Range

Southern Short-tailed Shrew Region Map In the eastern United States, Short-tailed Shrews are commonly found in forests, marshes, fields, and bogs. Southern Short-tailed Shrews range through out the state except in the mountains of northern Georgia.

Conservation Status

Short-tailed Shrews are common in suitable habitat, where they help keep populations of insects and arthropods in check.

Similar Species

Seven species of shrews occur in Georgia. Short-tailed shrews can be distinguished from other shrews by the fact that Least Shrews are smaller and cinnamon-colored and all other shrews have long tails. However, where their ranges overlap in the Piedmont, it requires an expert to distinguish between the Northern Short-tailed Shrew and the Southern Short-tailed Shrew.