There’s a new exhibit under construction in Catch the Wind. In the process of installing the exhibit there has been much moving about of earth, rocks, and plants across the landscape. Each time that I walk by the site there seems to be something new going on. I walk by often, believe me, there’s a lot going on!
On one such stroll past the site last week, Landscape Tech, Jose, pointed out to me a tiny mammal running around in circles on the edge of the construction. Jose’s aware of my interests and often points out to me things of a natural persuasion, snakes, turtles, whatever he encounters. This time it was a shrew, apparently unearthed by all the digging and planting that had been going on that day.
I often see Southern Short-tailed Shrews (Blarina carolinensis) in the spring and fall, but they’re usually dead alongside the path. But no, this shrew was as alive as can be, running back and forth, apparently trying to locate its home, “¿dónde está mi casa?, ¿dónde está mi casa?” exclaimed Jose.
And Jose was right, it appeared as though the little shrew was running around trying to find its home, or at least its burrow entrance. It was quite comical for us humans who were watching the animal, though the shrew was probably in a bit of a panic.
These little shrews don’t see very well, they have very small beady eyes. They spend most of their time in burrows just under the soil, leaf litter, or under the grass where they hunt for worms, sow bugs, and other small invertebrates to eat. Their saliva contains a poison which can be introduced into its victims from wounds created by the shrew’s bite. The venom is strong enough to kill a mouse. Considering that this shrew is under four inches itself, including its short tail, that’s fairly potent.
Shrews are dynamos, they never seem to stop moving and there’s a constant need to eat. With a resting heart rate of 750 or more beats a minute you can see why. Excited shrews can have a heart rate of 1200 beats per minute. Maybe that’s why I find so many of them dead along the path with no apparent external injuries, they probably just wear themselves out.
Our little shrew finally ran under a nearby trash recepticle and did not reappear, apparently satisfied that it had found a safe place, at least until better arrangements could be made.
“Tómelo con calma, pequeña musaraña.Tómelo con calma.“
Greg Dodge is a professional naturalist as well as a writer, videographer and producer of natural history DVDs. His images have been used in various TV productions, museum displays, and corporate videos. Above all, he has a fascination and passion for all things natural.
He can be found Tuesday thru Saturday in Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, or on the Dinosaur Trail. Ask him what’s new in the wild!