Texas rules when it comes to biodiversity.
No other state can boast the wide variety of creatures that roam the wild lands from the Panhandle to the coastal prairies of Southeast Texas and everywhere in between. A huge part of the outdoors experience is the creatures we encounter and every single outdoors excursion involves sightings of some kind. Some are of the common variety but we Texans have opportunities afforded few, which has inspired me to ponder our creatures great and small.
Let us go against Texas tradition and start with something small.
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.
Shrews 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 least shrews to remain active all winter.
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 indigenous to the eastern third of Texas and has similar habits as its previously mentioned cousin. It does however have a standout feature-it exerts a toxin.
According to the Mammals of Texas “An interesting feature of this shrew is the poison produced by the submaxillary glands, which is present in the saliva and may be introduced into wounds made by the teeth.”
It’s not enough to kill a person but could doom an insect.
Weird wildlife. That’s one of many things I love about our state.