A Texas Mammal With A Poisonous Bite

Did you know there are shrews in Texas?

The shrew is a mouse-sized insectivore that is arguably the most voracious predator on the planet and the two most common varieties are the southern short-tailed shrew and the least shrew. They have an extremely high metabolic rate. According to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, this rapid conversion of food to energy requires that these animals consume up to their own body weight in food every single day.

“The highly social and gregarious least shrew often cooperates in building burrows or nests, which are sometimes shared with other least shrews during the nesting and wintering seasons. The species uses the runways and burrows of moles, voles, and other small mammals but will make its own runways in soft, loose soil. Tunnels under the snow provide protection from wind and intense cold, allowing the least shrews to remain active all winter.”

These shrews have saliva that is toxic to the insects they prey on. It is probably not wise to get bitten by one but I could find no records of anyone dying or even being hospitalized by a shrew bite.

Least shrews rely mainly on their senses of touch and smell. Sight and hearing are not well developed.

They also said the least shrew only lives a short time, usually a little over a year.

“After being born in the summer, shrews overwinter as juveniles, breed the following spring, raise 2 to 3 litters of young, and then die.”

The short-tailed shrew is common in the eastern half of the state and is commonly mistaken for mice.

Chester Moore, Jr.

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