Most of mammals we see where I live Southeast Texas would be considered of the common garden variety. They are certainly not weird in any way.
Whitetail deer, raccoons, opossums and squirrels are the most frequently seen creatures that thrive in our woodlands, prairies, marshes and urban areas.
In fact, these animals are common sightings throughout North America
There are however some really strange mammals in the region that are very rarely seen by human eyes and yet they can live in suburban backyards.
Take the eastern mole for example.
These burrowing mammals have tiny eyes but they cannot see and spend almost all of their time underground.
According to the Mammals of Texas, “…moles feed largely on earthworms and grubs, although beetles, spiders, centipedes, insect larvae and pupae, and vegetable matter may also be eaten. In captivity, they have consumed mice, small birds, and ground beef.
“The average daily food consumption is about 32 percent of the body weight of the animal, although a mole can consume more than 66 percent of its body weight in 18 hours. Active prey is killed by crushing it against the sides of the burrow with the front feet or by piling loose earth on the victim and biting it while thus held. Captive moles kill earthworms by biting them rapidly in several places, often nearly cutting the worm in two.”
The saliva of males contains a type of toxin that paralyzes worms and insects. And if that is not weird enough, they can move as quickly backwards as they can forwards. The eastern mole is a strange creature but for really strange check out the star-nosed mole we have included a photo of in this entry.
If the mole isn’t odd enough for you than let me introduce you to the shrew.
These mouse-sized insectivores are arguably the most voracious predators on the planet and East Texas has two varieties: the southern short-tailed shrew and the least shrew.
According to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, shrews have an extremely high metabolic rate. This rapid conversion of food to energy requires that these animals consume up to their own body weight in food every 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.
The least shrew only lives a short time, usually a little over a year.
Chester Moore, Jr.