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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 14:17 EDT

Northern Short-tailed Shrew

The northern short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda) is a large shrew found in central and eastern North America. It is found from southern Saskatchewan to Atlantic Canada and south to Nebraska and Georgia. At one time, this species and the southern short-tailed shrew were considered to be a single species.

It is slate grey in color with a light belly. Its body is about 3.94 in (10 cm) long including a .79 in (2 cm) long tail. It weighs about .74 oz (21 g), about the same as a house mouse.

This animal is found in damp hardwood and coniferous forests and wet open areas.

It eats insects, earthworms, snails, small rodents and plant material. This red-toothed shrew digs through dense leaf litter and can also tunnel in moist soil. It has scent glands that release a musky secretion that repels some predators. The males also use scent to mark their territory.

Mating begins in early spring and may occur until late fall. The female has 2 or 3 litters of 5 to 7 young. They stay in a nest in a tunnel or under a fallen log.

Glands in its mouth contain a neurotoxin that allows it to immobilize larger animals such as snakes and birds. Some say this is “one of the most aggressive animals in the world”. It has to eat nearly constantly to keep up its continual elevated state of “rage.” If not able to find food within about a two-hour period, these small mammals will attack and eat each other.

Northern Short-tailed Shrew