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Species Description

Least Shrew

Cryptotis parva


Species Image

Classification

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

Description

The back and sides vary from dark brown to reddish brown in winter and are lighter in color in the summer months. The belly is grayish. Total length for this shrew ranges from 7.2 - 9 cm (2.8 - 3.5 in). The Least Shrew can be distinguished by the combination of its extremely short tail, small size, and cinnamon color.

Life Cycle

The Least Shrew breeds year-round, and produces several litters per year. After a 22 - day gestation period, 2 - 8 (usually 5) young are born in a globular-shaped nest which is 10 - 13 cm (3.9 - 5.1 in) in diameter. The nest is made of dried grasses and leaves, and is lined with finely shredded grass. Both parents care for the young and share the same nest. Young are the size of adults by one month of age and reach sexual maturity soon thereafter.

Natural History

The Least Shrew is one of the most adaptable and wide-ranging of all North American shrews. It frequents grasslands, pastures, and open woodlands. It is also found in marshy and maritime forest habitats. It makes shallow surface runways or burrows or uses those of rodents or other shrews. It also takes refuge under fallen logs, rocks or other ground cover. The Least Shrew is a socially inclined animal compared to the solitary existence of other shrews. As many as 31 individuals may share the same nest. Its diet includes insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, slugs, snails, and earthworms. Preferred insects are grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets. A Least Shrew must eat from 60 - 100% of its body weight daily. Predators include hawks, owls, snakes, and small carnivores. As with all shrews, the average life span is usually less than a year.

Range

Least Shrew Region Map The Least Shrew is found throughout Georgia and the eastern United States. It inhabits a wide variety of habitats from shortgrass prairie to coastal prairies and marshes, and upland oak - hickory forests.

Conservation Status

The Least Shrew is an abundant species in appropriate habitats.

Similar Species

Short-tailed shrews are lead-gray in color and are larger. All other shrews have a longer tail.