101 Facts About Shrews


Shrew
  • 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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Shrew
  • 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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Shrew
  • 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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Shrew
  • 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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Shrew
  • 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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Shrew
  • 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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Shrew
  • 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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Shrew
  • 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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Shrew
  • 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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Shrew
  • 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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Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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