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101 Facts About Shrews

  • Shrews are one of the most voracious mammals on the earth. 
  • The shrew is the smallest terrestrial mammal on earth.
  • Shrews are one of the world’s most ancient predators.
  • The shrew is the smallest mammal in the family Soricidae.
  • Shrews are classified as insectivores, not rodents.
  • Shrews grew 45 million years ago and in North America have remained nearly unchanged for at least 10 million years.
  • The shrew is one of the smallest mammals, the North American 
  • The shrew is one of the most wide-ranging mammals in all of North America.
  • North American short-tailed shrews are about 4 inches long.
  • Shrews have beady eyes and pointed noses.
  • They have a dark grayish body with a stumpy tail.
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  • The North American Shrew has velvety, soft fur with a short tail and small eyes.
  • They have a white belly and grayish to reddish-brown fur.
  • Their summer fur is lighter than the winter fur
  • The North American short-tailed shrew is the most common mammal in the United States.
  • Shrews move quickly with rapid, bouncy movements.
  • They have the fastest heartbeat, recorded up to 1,200 beats per minute.
  • The largest shrews in North America are about 4.3 to 5.5 inches in length
  • The shrew builds its home in burrows and thin runways under flat stones and fallen logs.
  • The shrews mating season is March to November.
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  • Shrews usually produce two litters per season with three to six young per litter.
  • North America Shrews have been recorded making 12 body movements per second.
  • Shrews live life at a very fast pace.
  • A shrew’s heartbeats rate generally beats 800 to 1000 times per minute.
  • Shrews are in a stable motion, not often stopping to sleep.
  • Shrews have a very high metabolism.
  • A shrew’s life consists of constantly searching for prey.
  • The shrew eats insects, from the corpses of dead animals, as well as seeds and fruit.
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  • If shrews do not find food within a two-hour period, they will attack and eat each other.
  • A shrew will die if they do not eat within a few hours.
  • Shrews have poor eyesight.
  • Shrews moves their whiskers continually.  This movement is called ‘sufficient whisking’.  They will do this until they brush against their prey.
  • Shrews stores enough venom to kill 200 mice. 
  • Shrew bite the heads off crickets and grasshoppers in order to eat their internal organs.
  • The shrew lacks hollow fangs (as in venomous snakes) but in its place has a gland that allows saliva to flow with the venom.
  • Shrew bites on humans are painful but are not deadly.
  • Many mammalian predators, including red foxes, raccoons, and cats, will attack shrews but hardly ever eat them.  
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  • Shrews release an unpleasant smell when attacked.
  • The shrew has been known to live inside beehives so they can eat all the larvae and will often shares their food with other shrews before storing the waste.
  • The shrews like grassy open lands, and they also found in open forests and marsh habitats.
  • A shrews’ body is smooth with a unique pointed snout equipped with a highly movable and functional nose and very sharp teeth.
  • The sharp teeth of the shrew helps them for killing and tearing its prey to pieces.
  • North American shrews have 32 teeth.
  • The shrew has movable vibrissae around the nose and mouth which provide a very eager vibratory sense to detect movement, help them greatly in locating insects.
  • Half of a shrew’s diet consists of aquatic insects, the other half is terrestrial insects.
  • Shrews are active at all hours of the day but more active at night.
  • Shrews are not sociable mammals.
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  • Shrews breed year-round and normally produces many litters per year.
  • North American shrews mate from March through September.
  • During mating, male shrews will make clicking sounds to invite females
  • After a gestation period of about 21 -22 days, litters of 4-7 young are born. Young babies are born naked with their eyes and ears closed.
  • At birth, young shrews weigh only 0.11 ounces
  • Both parents care for young which within a month are fully weaned and resembling adults
  • Shrews can become sexually mature at 2-3 months of age
  • Shrews have a very high metabolic rate and burn up large amounts of energy in a short duration of time.
  • A shrew has an average life span of less than one year.
  • Shrews never sleep for more than a few minutes at a time.
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  • Shrews have to eat three times its body weight daily, which means they capture prey every 15 to 30 minutes, day and night.
  • The saliva of these little animals pack a strong punch to its prey in the form of a neurotoxin.
  • Shrews are not deadly for humans.
  • Shrews make ultrasonic noises, similar to bats.
  • During the winter, shrews tend to eat 40% more food in order to maintain their body temperature.
  • Like other mammals, shrews also possess brown adipose (fat) tissue that also aids them in maintaining body heat during the cold winter months.
  • Shrews produce venom from their salivary glands which helps them overcome prey larger than itself such as salamanders, frogs, snakes, mice, birds
  • Shrews can stay underwater for 45 seconds or more at a time.
  • Shrews are able to skitter across water surfaces supported by air bubbles trapped in the feet and toes.
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  • Shrews are very territorial and aggressive.
  • Shrews are helpful for farmers because they reduce insects, slugs and other vermin from their crops.
  • Shrews have the fastest metabolic rate of all known animals.
  • Shrew’s brains weigh 10% of their total body weight.
  • Shrew venom is not conducted into the wound by fangs, but by a groove in the teeth.
  • Shrews are solitary animals.
  • The Northern Shrew does not hibernate. Their winter death rate is as high as 90%.
  • Shrews are easily anxious and will jump.
  • Shrew will aim for the legs in order to cripple an animal when confronted with a larger creature.
  • Shrews cannot stay alive in temperatures higher than 77 degrees F.
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  • Shrews have an excellent sense of smell and hearing.
  • Shrew are known to store extra food.
  • Shrews remain active all winter due to tunnels under the snow which provide protection from wind and the intense cold.
  • Shrews sleep in an underground nest area that is kept clean with a separate section for a latrine.
  • Shrews will mark their territory with a musky odor to keep other shrews away.
  • Shrews have the highest brain to body mass ratio of any animal, even higher than humans.
  • Shrews resemble mice, but they are not rodents.
  • Shrews have sharp pointed teeth.
  • Shrews have an echolocation system like bats.  They use it to look at their territory and find food.
  • Northern shrews are effective climbers.
  • Some shrews can climb nearly 2 meters up a tree trunk.
  • Northern shrews can live together peacefully if enough space is provided.
  • Northern shrews have a highly developed sense of touch.
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  • Shrews make a variety of sounds (chirps, buzzes, twitters) when fighting with other individuals.
  • Shrews make a clicking sound during courtship.
  • Shrews have to eat more in the winter than in the summer in order to keep their bodies warm. 
  • North American shrews are aggressive.
  • Shrews eat almost continually.  This is in case they cannot find food for a little while.
  • Shrews bite off the tails of lizards, providing them sufficient meat.
  • Many predators, such as weasels and foxes, refuse to eat northern shrews because of their foul taste.
  • Shrews make themselves taste bad by releasing a musky odor from glands on their belly and side.
  • Shrews are related to moles.
  • The venom secreted from the salivary glands of northern shrews can cause pain that lasts for several days in a human who is bitten.
  • Bite from shrews can cause Lyme disease.
  • A substance in the venom of the North American shrew has been used to treat ovarian cancer. 
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