A Fun-Loving Guide to the Natural World for Kids and Adults

The Amazing Northern Short-Tailed Shrew

Last autumn we were lucky enough to spot this elusive little beast running along the edge of a house.  Little did we know what an intriguing creature it was!

The Life of a Shrew

The world of the Northern Short-Tailed Shrew is very mysterious — they are a creature that seems to combine the traits of many different types of animals.  They are famous for their ravenous appetite, of course.  Can you imagine eating twice your weight in food each day?  The shrew eats this and more.  Talk about an active metabolism!

Like Asian Lady Beetles, these shrews also have a chemical defense to protect them against coyotes, foxes, and house cats who might be looking for a meal.  The shrews exude a musk that makes them quite unpalatable.

Their vision is pretty poor, but the shrew makes up for it by using the power of the bat — echolocation.  They make sounds that are ultrasonic (too high for us to hear) and then listen for the sound’s echo in order to better perceive their environment.

Perhaps most amazing of all, the Northern Short-Tailed Shrew is venomous.  Its venom can kill creatures larger than itself, and if it bites a human, it will hurt rather badly — sometimes for a couple of days.  We didn’t know it was venomous when we saw it last year, and Kenton almost tried to catch it.  Lucky for him he didn’t!

When we met this creature, we thought it was just a rather cute grey velvety-soft looking creature.  We had no idea we were looking at a ravenous echolocating musk-producing venomous beast!  Ah, the surprises of nature!

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