Northern Short Tail Shrew

Steve scattered some extra sunflower seeds under the feeder. Look who arrived to check it out.

I’m fairly certain this little guy is Michigan’s most common shrew: the Northern Short Tail Shrew a/k/a Blarina Brevicauda. We watched for about half an hour while he ducked in and out of a hole burrowed through the snow, taking one sunflower seed after another. He lucked out. No hawks today. Bailey, the neighbor’s dog didn’t come by either.

The Northern Short Tail Shrew is both prey and predator. It is one of only two mammals with toxic saliva. The saliva flows along a groove between two of its incisors. When the shrew bites, it injects the poison into its prey. That’s why one of these little guys can kill another small mammal.

You can tell a shrew from other little crawly things, like mice and voles, by their pointy heads, very very tiny almost can’t be seen small eyes, and the almost concealed ears.The tiny eyes leave them with very poor eyesight. Instead of vision, these shrews use a bat-like system of echo location to figure out what’s around. They send out ultrasonic clicks, beyond what our ears can hear, and listen for the bouncing back to figure out what’s where. Pretty cool for such dinky creatures.

Shrews like to eat earthworms, snails, insect larvae, millipedes–all yummy stuff. And, apparently, sunflower seeds will do in the wintertime.

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