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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Northern Short-tailed Shrew nest unearthed!

Northern short-tailed shrew young
(Seneca Falls, 4/12)
Today was the day I was finally going to dig up the drain pipe that has been giving me fits for several months now. I anticipated several hours of digging, poking and prodding ahead of me. Well, I was only into it about five minutes when I unearthed a nest of young short-tailed shrews. Their were four in all. I grabbed them up and brought them to Laura to hold while I took photos.

Have a good look at these guys on the left. Shrews are often mistaken for mice even though they are not close relatives. Mice are in the Order Rodentia while shrews are in the Order Soricimorpha. On the inside, there are some dramatic differences between shrews and mice, but let's judge this book by its cover. First, shrews have five digits on the front feet while mice have four. Secondly, shrews have very small eyes and external ears while mice often have prominent ears and big eyes to match. These shrewlets are showing their external ears because their fur is still not to full length.
As mentioned above, I scooped up the little guys and brought them to Laura. She held them as I took a few photos.

(Seneca Falls, NY 4/12)

Although they were all active, one in particular seemed to want to explore...
Northern short-tailed shrews
(Seneca Falls, NY 4/12)
He even crawled up Laura's sleeve. You can just see his tail in the photo...
Northern short-tailed shrews
(Seneca Falls, NY 4/12)

These guys were so photogenic that I could have done this for hours. But that would not have been in the best interest of the shrews. I wanted to get them back to the nest site quickly. I placed them back down on the ground where I first found them. There were only a few remnants of the nest remaining. Some leaves and shredded plastic were all that was left of their natal den.
Laura gathered up some fresh grass clippings and we covered the shrewlets up. I hoped that mom would come back to take care of them I have done this with mice before and watched as the mother came and relocated the babies.
Make-shift shrew nest
(Seneca Falls, NY 4/12)
I busied myself with other tasks and tried to forget about the little shrews. Would mom come for them or would I end up trying to hand-rear four baby animals with some of the fastest metabolisms of any mammal on the planet? Finally, I could take it no more and gently peeled back the grass to find a re-excavated tunnel heading. Mom did indeed return and whisked off her young. So this is a story with TWO happy endings. The shrews survived and I have to wait at least a few more weeks to tackle that drain pipe to assure they have left their new nest :)


  1. Nice!

    Always good to make an unexpected find AND avoid undesirable chores!

  2. You've tackled and succeeded at Mother Squirrel, I'm sure you could have handled Mother Shrew :)

  3. Only you, can do somthing like digging up a pipe and find wildlife. How do you get so lucky?


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