Strange and Unbelievable Facts About Shrews

Young shrews (crocidura, most likely c. russula) near their nest. Picture taken at a compost heap in Germany. Photo © Holger Casselmann / Wikimedia Commons

You’re walking along some bushes in a park, and suddenly see a tiny gray creature skittering into the fallen leaves. At first you might think it’s a rodent, but this frenetic ball of energy is actually a shrew.

While it may appear small and gray, shrews are one of the most voracious mammalian predators on the planet. And they’re abundant and widespread, found on five continents in a variety of habitats. In the United Kingdom, there are an estimated 50 shrews per hectare in woodlands, with a country-wide population of more than 40 million shrews. The northern short-tailed shrew may be the most common mammal of the eastern United States.

Soricidae, the shrew family, contains more than 385 species. Superficially, many of these species look similar, with most having pointy snouts, a streamlined body and a grayish coloration. But they exhibit a diversity of behaviors. Even though they’re common and widespread, few people see them and fewer know their crazy habits and adaptations.

Let’s take a look at just some of the many reasons to marvel at shrews.

  1. Life in the Fast Lane

    If you’re lucky enough to see a shrew, you’ll notice that it’s moving rapidly, with rapid, jerky movements. This isn’t because you scared it; shrews just live life fast and furious. Your most highly caffeinated, Type A colleague will appear downright slothful compared to a shrew.

    While this varies among species, a shrew’s heart rate beats 800 to 1000 times per minute. The Etruscan shrew, the smallest terrestrial mammal on earth, has a heart rate that can reach 1500 beats per minute, more than any other mammal and more even than the hummingbird.

    Shrews have been recorded making 12 body movements per second. (Go ahead and try to duplicate this feat). They’re in constant motion, rarely stopping to sleep. They have a high metabolism, which means they have to eat. A lot.

    A shrew’s life is a constant search for prey. Many species must eat their body weight’s worth of food each day. (I advise you not to attempt this one). If a shrew doesn’t eat within a few hours, it dies. This constant need for food has led to some truly bizarre and even disturbing adaptations.

  2. Watch Those Whiskers

    Northern Short-tailed Shrew. Photo © Gilles Gonthier / Flickr

    Shrews must find and subdue prey fast. They have poor eyesight and often live in thick cover filled with obstacles. How do they manage?

    Many sources mention that some shrews use echolocation: they emit sounds producing sonar that helps them navigate their world (much like bats). Shrews emit a sound described as a “twitter” and it is often assumed this is used in echo-location. However, much of the evidence appears anecdotal.  An article in the journal Biology Letters found “shrew-like calls can indeed yield echo scenes useful for habitat assessment at close range.”

    There isn’t evidence that this echolocation is used to find prey. Instead, shrews rely on their long, highly sensitive whiskers, also known as vibrissae. According to a study published in Philosophical Transactions B, the Etruscan shrew hunts in an environment where crickets are particularly abundant. It moves its whiskers constantly –  a motion called, appropriately enough, whisking – until it brushes its prey. Then it strikes quickly and with great precision.

    Of course, wasting time attacking non-prey items that the whiskers brush against would burn precious energy. The researchers conducted an intriguing test:

    “Experiments with dummy prey objects showed that shrews attacked a plastic replica of a cricket but not other plastic objects of similar size. Altering the shape of crickets by gluing on additional body parts from donor animals revealed that the jumping legs but not the head are key features in prey recognition.”

  3. Shrew Venom, A Horror Story

    You can spend way too much time on YouTube watching videos of shrews attacking mice, scorpions, snakes and other larger creatures. Spoiler alert: the shrew wins.

    This is because many shrew species are venomous. Research has found that an individual shrew stores enough venom to kill 200 mice. Some shrews also use this venom for something called live hoarding.

    Live hoarding sounds innocuous enough, but in reality it shares numerous plot points with that terrifying movie Hostel. Here’s how it works.

    The shrew lacks hollow fangs (as in venomous snakes) but instead has a gland that allows saliva to flow with the venom. When the shrew encounters its prey – often an invertebrate, but it can also be a mouse or other vertebrate – it begins biting it, allowing the venomous saliva to flow into the wound.

    For the prey, this is the beginning of a very bad day. The venom paralyzes the creature, but keeps it very much alive. The shrew can then move it to a cache, available for whenever hunting is not going so great. For an animal that has to eat constantly, this keeps a fresh if unsavory meal always at the ready.

    The American Chemical Society reports that a mealworm can be kept, paralyzed but alive, for 15 days.

    Shrew bites on humans are reportedly painful but fade in a few days. Be very, very glad these animals are not larger.

  4. Following the Herd

    Mormon crickets in Nevada, 2006. Photo © katie madonia / Wikimedia Commons through a CC BY 2.5 license

    In the sagebrush country of the western United States, one species of shrews may follow the thundering herds … of Mormon crickets. Mormon crickets (actually a species of katydid) are prone to periodically have population explosions resulting in large swarms.

    Vladimir Dinets, in the Peterson Field Guide to Finding Mammals, includes this intriguing description: “On arid plains these shrews follow swarms of Mormon crickets the same way Gray Wolves follow migrating Caribou herds. If you encounter a swarm, look for shrews scurrying along its tail edge.”

    Dinets’ book, by the way, is like a shrew spotter’s bible, including tips on where and how to seek all the North American species.

  5. Walking on Water

    Water shrew on Pebble Creek. © NPS/April Henderson / Flickr

    You can find a shrew species in just about any habitat. Several species of water shrews even take to streams. The water shrew has stiff hairs on its feet that allow it to scamper across the surface of the water. Its stiff fur also traps air bubbles, allowing it to stay underwater for short bursts. It must stay in constant motion underwater, or it pops back up to the surface. It hunts caddis larvae and other small aquatic prey.

    Theodore Roosevelt (yes, the president) observed a water shrew catching a minnow in North Idaho. He described it in his book The Wilderness Hunter: “It was less in size than a mouse, and as it paddled rapidly underneath the water its body seemed flattened like a disk, and was spangled by tiny bubbles, like flecks of silver.”

    As a side note, Theodore Roosevelt also kept a shrew in captivity (he fed it a mouse and garter snake) and observed, wrote about and collected shrew species on his lengthy African safari. He even has a shrew species named after him. I’m not surprised that he had a love of shrews, given his accomplishments as a conservationist, naturalist and outdoors enthusiast. I wish for another politician like him nearly every day.

  6. The Incredible Shrinking Brain

    Common shrew (Sorex araneus). Photo © Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project / Flickr through a CC BY 2.0 license

    Many wildlife species feast and bulk up for the cold winter months. With the shrew’s metabolism, weight gain is not an option. And so at least one shrew species shrinks. A recent study, published in the journal Nature, found that in common shrews in Germany, “Their spines also got shorter, and major organs, including the heart, lungs and spleen, shrank. Even their brain mass dropped by 20–30%.”

    Researcher Javier Lazaro hypothesized that “reducing their body mass during winter might increase their chances of survival, because they wouldn’t need so much food.” The brain in particular has high energy requirements, but the study could not determine if shrews experienced decreased cognitive functions.

  7. Foxes Hate Them, Trout Love Them

    The shrew-eating trout of Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Shrews may be fierce predators, but they’re small, which means they in turn become prey. Many mammalian predators, including red foxes, raccoons and cats, will attack them but rarely actually eat them. That’s because shrews emit an unpleasant musk that some liken to the smell of skunk.

    This does not deter other predators, like owls and snakes. But my favorite incidence of shrew predation is a rainbow trout caught at Alaska’s Togiak National Wildlife Refuge that had 19 shrews in its stomach. These were not water shrews, but other species that fell into the water and became prey. You can read the full account in my previous blog.

  8. Shakespeare and Shrews

    Petruchio (Kevin Black) and Katherina (Emily Jordan) from the 2003 Carmel Shakespeare Festival production at the Forest Theater. Photo © Smatprt / Wikimedia Commons through a CC BY-SA 3.0 license

    And then there’s the literary work, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. During my Shakespearean literature class in college, my professor stated that the Bard did not refer to the literal shrew, as such a benign, inconsequential mammal wouldn’t fit the theme of the play.

    As a lifelong mammal nerd, this amounted to heresy. I decided to make my final paper for the class a detailed comparison of the real shrew with the literary one. This, in retrospect, was a bit of a gamble. I relied on a store of shrew facts, many of which now appear in this blog.

    As I read my professor’s comments on the paper, I could sense that she was initially annoyed at my topic, then became increasingly alarmed as she realized I was quite serious. The paper received an “A”, along with the pointed suggestion that I pursue a career in nature writing as opposed to academia.

    And here I am, still sharing shrew facts.

Join the Discussion

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  1. Thank you! Fascinating stuff. Yay for Nature’s students always learning from Her.

  2. Long ago I worked in an arboretum in upstate New York. One week my job was to clean up a poorly maintained slope covered with various evergreen species. Under a low growing spruce I found a whiskey bottle containing the skeletons of five shrews. My guess is that one shrew entered the bottle followed by another. One ate the other and could not get out. Subsequently three more shrews entered the bottle and one ate the other. Repeat – until five were trapped and either eaten or unable to get out because they had eaten. Not too shrewed – or maybe too shrewed.

  3. Matthew wrote that foxes don’t eat shrews, and hypothesized, “ That’s because shrews emit an unpleasant musk that some liken to the smell of skunk.”

    This was the subject of my MS work. At least for red foxes and the northern short-tailed shrew, avoidance is probably because of the poison glands.

  4. When I was a kid, I saw a movie theater trailer for an upcoming sci-fi feature, Killer Shrews, about some mutated variety of shrew the size of German Shepherds, and what they could do. The trailer alone was scary. I never did see the movie.

  5. That was a good read. I learned a few new behaviors of a Shrew that I wasn’t aware of.

  6. I live about 20 miles south of Dallas. Texas. Moved out here in 1982 & had never seen one of these shrews before. The land we are on is old farmland & use to be hay pastures. We see them quite often when we catch the feral cats playing with them. They do not however eat them like they do a mouse or rat.

  7. Glad that you indeed took up nature writing. I enjoyed this quick, highly informative – and amusing – read about shrews.

    1. Thank you very much, Michael, and thanks for reading Cool Green Science!

  8. I loved all of the details you shared about shrews, and particularly your anecdote about the Shakespeare paper! I take children on nature walks in Northern Virginia, and with the first cold snaps of fall we often see dead shrews on the trail. Do you know if they die from the cold, the sudden absence of insects for food or other causes?

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for reading the blog. I have noticed dead shrews along the greenbelt path near my home in Boise. I suspect it is a combination of factors — some could die of cold, and I also believe some are probably killed by foxes, cats, etc and left dead on the path (for reasons described above). Shrews seem to live fast and die hard…

  9. Thank you so much for this! I am a conservation biologist working on species at risk in southwest BC and we have the endangered Pacific Water Shrew here (Sorex bendirii). Shrews can be a hard sell in conservation (especially water shrews like our “Benny”) because they are rarely seen by people, are often mistaken for rats or mice and don’t garner the cute and cuddly attention that some of our charismatic fauna like caribou or spotted owls do. But I love them and having these sorts of articles may help others love them too!

    Pamela Zevit RPBio
    South Coast Conservation Program
    BC, Canada

    1. Thank you Pamela for loving these little creatures. Your job sounds wonderful! May I suggest reading “ “Kinship with all Life” written by J Allen Boone to your students? If you haven’t already?

  10. So, that explains why I had so many shrews in my yard the years I had foxes living under my barn. No mice, though. (Wish the foxes would come back, but unfortunately neighbors removed the wooded corridor behind my property.)

    I like shrews– interesting creatures- and enjoyed learning some more interesting things about them. Loved the film- both hilarious and a bit frightening! The Teddy Roosevelt quote was very much like something one of my daughters, age 5, said after watching a water shrew go downstream during one of our camping trips. Very observant kid. (She is currently studying for her PhD in biology.)

    Glad your teacher steered you toward nature writing, too, but somehow suspect that’s where you were going, anyway. Gift to all of us nature nerds.

    1. Thanks Annie, much appreciate. And yes, by the time that teacher made that suggestion, I was already firmly committed to my desired career path!

  11. Theodore Roosevelt is considered to have been a conservationist, but he was a tremendous persecutor of large predators, notably mountain lions. While I realize that this negative attitude towards large predators was common in Roosevelt’s time, I would certainly prefer politicians who are true conservationists and see the value of all species.

    1. Thanks for your comment. And I understand your point of view. But attitudes and values change, and I’ve never found it fruitful to apply today’s attitudes and values to times past. Even Aldo Leopold persecuted wolves (although he had a change of heart). And I should note that I know several accomplished and eloquent conservationists today who hunt mountain lions.

      Regarding Roosevelt, he was critical in establishing national parks, the national wildlife refuge system and so much more. I continue to wish for more like him, every day.

  12. Amazing creature. Thanks for the article. I learn so much from this site.

  13. Great article…fascinating……..ounce for ounce a pretty tough customer……I am guessing their life expectancy is comparatively short.

  14. I used to regularly find dead shrews,usually a foot above the water line near ponds after rainstorms,any clue why this happens?
    My theory is they get wet and it supercharges there metabolism and there poor little bodies can’t take it?

  15. Just found a shrew in my back yard. My dogs have been barking at something and driving us crazy fo r the past week. Now we saw the shrew tonight and managed to get the dogs away from it with a hose. We have cats as well. Now what do we do with this animal. Its driving us nuts. Which reminds me we do feed the jay birds with nuts during the day. So maybe that is why this creature has appeared. We live in Beaverton, Oregon. Can anyone help.

  16. I had to relocate a shrew that lived in our garden, to both protect her from feral cats, and to reduce the insectivorus competition for the local hedgehog that still likes to live here (it’s incredible how many insects a single shrew eats per day!). So after having scouted a new suitable habitat, I installed a live trap, watched it constantly, and as soon as it snapped shut, I covered it with a cloth to reduce stress, and took it to the new location. I had te be quick, due to the fast metabolism. After opening the trap door, the shrew gingerly got out, looked back at me, shouted angrily something in shrewanese, and ran away. I sure hope she got many offsprings.

    Oh, btw, shrews are said to be far cousins of hedgehogs.

  17. I caught a shrew today by the entry of a grocery store. I saw it running and it stopped sometimes and I picked it up..I had gloves on. It nestled right down in my glove..I put it in a little box with high sides, put the glove in the box and it hid under it. Took it to the humane society, talked with guy there, left it with them….really kind of wanted to take it home. Called them later, but those people were gone, I’ll call them tomorrow. I’ve read a lot about them and think I could keep it decently. Am I crazy??? I’m not fond of the fact they paralyze something and then eat it alive!!!! But that’s nature I guess. They probably wouldn’t let me have it back anyway….Maybe it died. It was a very cute little critter.

  18. Shakespeare surely did mean a shrew in his WONDERFUL play. Take nothing away from that.
    But the Professor was surely thinking of a VOLE which is also a “wee timourous beestie” and can look very similar to literary folk ungiven to scientific thought. But the vole is a RODENT almost exclusively vegetarian whereas the shrew is a wild carnivore more related to a mole or a hedgehog.
    Compare their dentitions.

  19. I’m going to be late to work because I found your blog. WONDERFUL writing and thanks for the good laugh at the end….you just made my day. (I had looked up shrews to see why my barn cats ignored the trapped and killed shrew I offered them last night…..I get it now!)

  20. Dear Matthew Miller ….My hero is Theodore Roosevelt!! While reading Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough I came across the Great Shrew Incident……What the heck exactly is a shrew ….I googled…. wow did I get answers!!! Plus someone else on the planet knew my Teddy story!!!!!!!
    Sure am glad your teacher directed you to the world of nature AND gave you an A

  21. Until yesterday I had never seen a shrew. We caught three running through our living room! we live outside of Pgh. PA. We live in the country, and have had bats, mice and a squirrel come in but never a shrew! They looked like the ones at the top of your article. can you tell me what kind of shrews they are? my question is would they have had to be born in my house to have had three! Do they normally come into homes? Fascinating critters! thank you for your article!!!

  22. What’s your opinion on shrews being white and grey; my cat catches DOZENS of shrews in Pennsylvania. And he’s caught two that were identical to the grey ones, very small barely visible ears and eyes, longer snout, short tail, clawed smaller feet; but they were blocked colored grey and white like how some pet mice look! (Looked nothing like a mouse though) It was shocking because now I’ve been trying to research if it were even a shrew because I’ve never heard nor seen the coloring. Any thought? Thanks.

    1. I have not heard of this but shrews do have variation in their pelt coloration. I will look into it more. Thanks for your question.


  23. I discovered six shrews in my compost bin during the turning process of producing usable material.
    On their exposure, they quickly scurried out of the bin through an entry hole at ground level. One was caught, photographed and then released through their escape hole. The shrews had formed a chamber at ground level which I am assuming was a breeding chamber. There is a meter of compost above ground level.
    The compost has a good supply of insects, worms, and woodlice, not sure about slugs or snails but in riddling the compost for use occasionally find empty snail shells.

  24. I really enjoyed reading and learning more about Shrews. I know if they don’t eat every 3 hours they will die. What I wanted to know is if they do eat every 3 hours. Do they have years they can live ?

    1. Shrews have short life spans, from 1.5 to 3 years depending on species. Most do not reach old age. Life in the fast lane is tough!

  25. So tickled to read all your fascinating facts about shrews. I’ve only seen one once, hunting in my yard, so tiny and busy and quick. T. Roosevelt just went up another notch in my estimation and second your wish for another. Thanks for the lead to Dinets.

  26. Loved the article and learning about shrews! I agree with your professor, you are a fantastic nature writer!

  27. Thank you, that was both informative and entertaining. I now recognize I’ve misidentified what was a shew for a mouse.

  28. We caught a shrew in a mouse trap under the kitchen sink. Reading your article makes me wiser! Last week I blamed my little chihuahua for chasing a skunk. Now I wonder if he had been chasing this shrew in our house or around it.

  29. I caught a northern short tailed shrew in my kitchen in Indianapolis today, and have enjoyed learning more about them. Might the presence of the shrew explain the absence of the annual ant invasion this year? We’ve had the house for 12 years and every spring until this one we have been invaded by ants from late February through about June. At any rate, I caught it in a live trap and released it in a nearby park. Hopefully I can find the hole it used to get in the house and seal it up.

  30. If they bit a small dog that weighs only 3to 5pounds or a cat can it kill them? How would you get rid of them if you have them in your house?

    1. They do not possess enough venom to kill a small dog or cat. Cats regularly kill shrews but don’t eat them, for reasons described in the story. I would contact a pest control company if you have problems with them in your home.

  31. I spotted three young shrews in my garden all busy running around about 5 hours later I went out in the garden saw a bit of movement under a few leaves. On closer inspection I found one eating another shrew and then spotted two more together dead, close together. Is this normal behaviour .

  32. I have a family of shrews in my kitchen and my three cats barely react to them. I think they live off the cat food. I had a baby one that wandered across the floor looking for water and I handled it before it ran off.

  33. I love to watch shrews. I have one that follows the same path every day at dusk. I put peanuts out for a couple of chipmunks every evening so that when they start foraging in the morning, they will find something. Yesterday, I saw my shrew friend take a peanut into the dense plant growth along my walkway. I had no idea that they ate anything other than small mammals and insects. I will make sure that I put some seed and peanuts out for him also. Thanks for the info.

  34. Have just discovered a pile of 7 dead shrews by a burrow , very strange. All in a neat little pile – any ideas?

  35. In the past week I caught 3 shrews in the mouse traps set in my garage. Never thought they were around! I had peanut butter on the traps and they probably were attracted to that. They were shrews because the nose was long and pointed, the tail was short, teeth were visible on the underside of the head and shorter legs. They were the same grey color as the mice living around here. Wisconsin.

  36. I enjoyed reading your article? I have been a fan of the often misidentified shrew. Years ago(precisely 38) I had spotted what I thought was a velvety brownish grey mouse. It was late at night, and I was taking advantage of the quiet alone time that late night would afford me the time to focus on my creative sewing projects. At the time, I was raising 2 little boys, ages 3 and 1 year. Late night was my escape into my own world of creative productivity.
    So on to the discovery of the shrew. I was at first startled by this bold little creature, coming out of hiding and leaning back on his hind legs, gave me a look of “oh, crap, you’re awake”. He didn’t seem very concerned about me, but rather scurried on to the kitchen, where I naturally assumed he was on the hunt for his next meal of tasty boxed cereal and then on to use my silverware drawer as his own personal restroom to relieve himself.
    I remember thinking that the following day would have to be my hunting day(this mouse would be pardoned for this night at least)
    I was not looking forward to sanitizing my dishwater, silverware, utensils ect.. Not to mention looking for any “chew holes”at the bottom of the boxes, bags or other containers in my pantry that housed the food that I prepared for my children. Wiping everything down with disinfectant was a daunting, time consuming task that I was not looking forward to. I hoped that my mouse hunting skills would be swift, but I knew deep in my heart that when you see “a” mouse, there are at least 10 more that you don’t see, keeping watch. Ugh! I really had better things to do with my time. On to the local hardware store to invest in some sort of contraption to catch these little critters that had so boldly taken up residence in my home. As much as I wanted them gone, I had no desire to kill them. My mother had read “Kinship with all life” to me as a child, and I have to admit, I did ask this mouse to leave the premises at once, or else! I figured he was going to stand his ground, so I would have to do the same. The guy at the hardware store said that it sounded more like a shrew and not a mouse. He then went on to tell me that I should be happy to share my home with this little critter, as they eat bugs and are not interested in any of the food in my pantry, except for maybe the cat and dog food. And as far as pooping on my silverware, had I actually identified any droppings? Not even one little poop, come to think of it, I hadn’t seen any sign at all that there were any mice in my home. Needless to say, I was eager to learn about this little critter that was feasting nightly on bugs and spiders, keeping my little boys safe from the possible poisonous bites of some of the common spiders found in the Midwest, which is where I live. I named our houseguest “Twinkles”. To this day my 2 boys remember our shrew as more of a pet than a pest. My husband told me yesterday that we have a mouse, a very strange looking one. I laughed and told him to leave it alone and be grateful for him living in our old farmhouse, that chances are he(the shrew) would most likely keep our home mouse free for the winter. I wonder what his name is….the shrew, that is?

    1. I found one reference that claims shrew young are called “shrewlets,” which I can’t help but love, but I have never actually heard them called this. I suspect in this case, the young are simply called baby shrews.

  37. Loved your shrew(d) observations, but disagree with wanting more politicians like Theodore Roosevelt. He was a merciless hunter of big game across the globe, and a war monger. As with so many public figures that we idolize without closer examination, he had some serious flaws as a humanitarian.

  38. Yes but could it be a snake or a mice that has took some peanuts that are not in the shell and put all of them in the living room in a perfect circle

  39. I just found a short tail shrew
    With no ears in my pool, unfortunately
    I was a little to late finding him, roughing him up did no good.

    decided to look up an article for my kids to learn about it and came upon yours.
    And found out they are venomous, I had no clue. Thank you for taking the time to write this article!


  40. Fascinating! I’ve always been a sort of amateur naturalist, since early childhood. I missed my calling. But I study the flora and fauna found all over the world with a hungry intensity at the advanced age of nearly 63 now. I met my first tiny shrew once while on a church get-away to an island in New York’s beautiful Adirondacks. It was on the bank of the crystal clear lake surrounding the island, hunting. It actually allowing me to pick it up and never bit me. It was just beautiful.

  41. Thank you Matthew,! What an informative and interesting read! My cat has a dead shrew on the porch about every other day! Your info helped allay my fears that Jed was in danger. Enjoyed it- thanks for putting in the Teddy Roosevelt bit. Glad I found you. 🙂

  42. Great read! Thank you!! I have a Shrew that I’ve kept through the winter months and will soon release him. I was waiting for warmer weather to arrive and finally it is here! He’s very cute! ?

  43. Interesting shrew info – who knew?

    We live on the beach in the Pacific Northwest (Bandon, OR). Our home is on a small – easy walk down to the sand – bluff. The bluff is filled with whatever grows during various seasons and we daily watch hunting birds of prey swoop down to nab a tasty treat. We have an abundance of shrews, mice and other small fuzzy and non fuzzy critters.

    Over the years we’ve had a couple of cats, several wonderful dogs, and a plethora of other animals of various kinds – but I digress….

    Our cats have been nighttime hunters. They often bring in “special offerings” to us of live critters which they then chase thru the house, causing my husband or me (and sometimes both) to crawl around on the floor in the middle of the night to grab the terrified little ones and take them outside.

    Last night a particularly large shrew (who understandably was stressed out) bit me as I tried to save his life (which I did). In any case, I put antiseptic cream & a band aid on the wound and this morning it’s a bit painful.

    Long story short, glad to know shrew saliva is not toxic to humans.

    Keep up the good work!

  44. Loved this whole article, and glad to see you’re still writing about the inconvenient lil mammal that started it all!

  45. This was super interesting, thank you! I saw a Schrew for the first time yesterday, and became quite fascinated by it. I had no idea it was so viscous! I was filming it, and all the time it was sizing me up to eat me. Yikes!

  46. We think that we saw a shrew going after starlings in our yard. Is that possible?

    1. A starling would be very, very large prey for a shrew. It is possible it was scurrying around starlings but probably not chasing them. Could it be a weasel?

  47. I have in 30 + years in S. Central Texas found 2 shrews that were no bigger than the 1st. joint on my thumb. Which is 1.25 to 1.5 inches. Do you recognize this as any identified species.
    They were both dark grey and one of them I watched run across a mud puddle that was 4-5 feet wide. It was very fast and the only reason I managed to observe it was because it was on an oilfield pad. It was at night and I followed it with my light for approximately 100 feet. I didn’t attempt to pick it up because I didn’t want to injure it and had no container to capture it in.
    I would love to have more info. on it but from everything I’ve read they are smaller than the ones described and their faces were more blunt and the tail was almost non-existent.

    1. Shrew ID is tricky under the best of circumstances. Many species can only be reliably identified by examining their skulls and dentition. Unfortunately, I am not sure what species you are seeing in Texas. It does sound very tiny indeed! Perhaps a good mammal field guide like Peterson’s or the Kauffman guide can point you in the right direction.

  48. Hi, I’m from India. It’s a very good informative article about shrew. I was searching for the answer… Why shrew is weaker than mouse? It’s probably because their high metabolic rate. They can survive without food for few hours, whereas mouse can survive for days.

  49. Thank you so much for such a great, informative article ! I hadn’t a clue that shrews will even eat mice (poor little mice !). I live in Northumberland, UK, and have recently built a tiny wildlife pond. I was just sitting quietly by it, when all of a sudden, two shrews shot out from underneath one of the rocks, it looked as if they were chasing each other. One fell into the pond, swam a couple of laps, then dived out and back under the rock ! This is about the third time I’ve encountered them and it looks as if they’ve burrowed all around the pond. I was wondering if this is usual ? They’re tiny and light beige in colour 🙂

  50. I love this article. I’m researching relationships – as in families – within human and animal families to highlight the theme OUR WORLD, – A FAMILY OF FAMILIES.
    Have you got anything to say about shrew family behaviour?

  51. awesome facts to know as a little shrew has made a burrow behind my shed next to a tree stump up here in ontario.

    i was curious tho i have a chipmunk friend under the shed on the side but i have not seen him in like 2 weeks end of july beginning of aug and his hole hasnt been used

    is it common for shrews to kill these chipmunks and eat them? because this shrew burrow appeared about 2 days ago (sept 8th 2020)
    the chipmunk would be just a little bit bigger

  52. I walked onto my back deck in New Jersey early on a September morning, when it was still fully dark. I put the deck lights on. I soon observed a small creature jumping around in the cut lawn surrounding the deck. At first I thought it was a small frog. It repeatedly moved in wide (for it) circles, very rapidly. After making 8-10 such circles in the turf, it hid out a bit, taking a break.

    At that point I soon was able to see it, identifying it as a very tiny mouse-like creature, i.e., as a shrew.

    When it again activated, it circled and re-circled individual acorns (on concrete pavement) in a whirlwind at “warp speed,” moving from one acorn to another. These circles were very tight and tiny, and the speed of movement was “blinding.”

    I concluded that both behaviors were designed to flush insect-prey out. But there was no success in this that I could identify.

  53. I currently have a shrew living in my house that lives on my cat’s dried food.

    It often appears from behind the cooked and seems is becoming quite confident even when there are people around.

    Is this normal shrew behaviour??

  54. Hi, many years ago I got bitten on the side of the right foot by a shrew, and the area became itchy for years after that, and so decided to try acupuncture on it. Therapist put needles around the area and thankfully made the itch go away. However in the last three months the itch has come again, any scratching on area does not resolve it. Now that shrew bit me about 20 years ago! Any suggestions what I could do about it, it’s really irritating!

  55. A great and wonderful piece. I would be hard pressed to describe what I liked about it most, whether it was the exposure of a magical and magnificent example of the genius that is Nature, contained in something so ordinary and commonplace as the shrew, or the idea of your final paper. Which brings me to my question-when do I get to read it? Congrats…

    1. Thank you for your comment, Paul. I am glad you enjoyed the story. As far as my paper, I am afraid it has been lost to time. There are several papers and notebooks from that era of my life I now wish I had…

  56. Nice Post. My son just sent me a picture in a text message of a couple rodents his cat deposited on his doorstep. At first I took them to be voles but on closer inspection the sharp noses spoke loudly shrew. So, I told him to give his cat a good looking over for festering swelling bites. Right away he mentioned that the cat did seem to have some issues and as a PA decided to give the cat a good look over. Next day he sent me a picture of lacerations that look like they came from a surgical scissors. That was after he thoroughly cleaned out the wounds. Yep classic shrew bit. He also reported the wounds to have a pretty fowel odor about them.

  57. Hi Matt,
    This is an interesting read. Thanks.
    A mammal with venom!
    I also encountered The Taming of the Shrew in college class and enjoyed it immensely and would like to know how you compared Kate to the little critter.
    I hope I am not the only commenter. Best regards.

  58. My house somehow got infested with these lil……
    And the smell is horrid.
    As soon as you open the door to my home the stentch hits ya and takes your breath away.
    What can i do to get the smell out.
    I have to wash my clothes 3 times in order to get clean smelling.

  59. Hi Matthew,
    We live in Kansas. Last week my husband and I were watching a scary movie. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of a black oval object go under the other couch.
    I shrugged it off to imagination. The next night I saw it, the high rate of speed and it was jet black led me to believe this is not a mouse. So before bed I set a cracker in front of the couch we saw it run under. The next morning it was gone. How do I get rid of it? I set 2 mouse traps. The food was gone on one of them and the trap was still set. Speedy Gonzalez the fasted mouse of all Mexico came to mind. We keep a clean house, we think it may have snuck in under the storm door when the weather was nice. How do I get rid of it?

  60. Great article. I really enjoyed reading and learning more about these creatures that I recently caught inside my home and seen for the first time in my 43 years.

  61. I had a rodent problem for years and eventually erradicated them but shrews have now moved into their holes, probably to feed off the insects of the decaying rats. Should I try to eliminate the shrews or will they keep the rats away?

  62. I am not sure if we saw a shrew or vole…We regularly walk in a “tree farm” with trees now at 5′ and under. We curiously found a shrew in the upper branches of a 3′ tree…it was recently dead ; we do the walk daily. I threw the dead animal into an adjacent field . The next day, we found a dead shrew in the same tree….???So we left it there and will see if it’s there tomorrow or if a predator caught it to save it. We see night hawks in the area…now other hawks or eagles.

  63. Ohio here,
    I have a shrew that lives in our garage . He is dusty dark grey and has been munching on cat foot daily for about 2 to 3 yrs now I have enjoyed his antics I watch him daily as I have a bad habit and smoke in the garage . They are so fascinating and yes constantly gathering food I have even seen him eat out of the same dish with our cat ( we have 4 ) they leave him alone . I understand now it must be the musty smell. I have tons of video he currently seems to take food to three locations? Any thoughts that this one has three diffrent family’s around garage or just sharing ??? I here the fighting sometimes high squeeks almost like yelling at each other as a warning sometime and know the location of the nest. I Give him a brake some days and put the food right next to his nest … because he dose gather allllllll day long minus a few naps !

  64. Thank you so much. We continue to save and release shrews from our cat. My goodness they are shrill and clever. We have watched them play dead and run. Clever and resilient little creatures.

  65. Well done on this article! My cat caught a shrew tonight through the chicken wire enclosure and I wanted to know more about them. Glad you got an A on your paper!

  66. Hello, thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog as found a dead Shrew frozen on my path in Cornwall UK. This prompted me to research this little mammal. I love nature and have now learnt about my little Shrew thank you. May the little soul RIP bless.

  67. Very interesting facts about shrews. I caught a mouse-like creature in my basement in Maryland that we think is a shrew. Can I send you a picture for an ID?

  68. I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing a shrew once, at the edges of Forest Park here in Portland, OR. I consider myself an observant person in nature, spending years learning different native species of plants, foraging edible berries, and novice-level mushroom hunting. But despite this attentiveness, I’ve yet to see a shrew a second time.

    I remember that shrew so fondly, voraciously eating something it had found and paying no attention to my presence. If I manage to ever see another one, I’ll consider it a great fortune. Thanks for this blog post! I’ll check the Field Guide to Finding Mammals; maybe that will help me in my quest.

  69. Thanks for your information. I had a couple traps for mice in the house and when a trap was sprung and subsequently disappeared, I wondered what sorcery was this?! Turns out a shrew moved in also. I actually began talking to the little bugger as he made an appearance now and then, darting here and there as if lost before returning to a dark haven once more. I had been on the verge of naming the intruder when he was finally trapped and killed last night. Though relieved, I felt a little bad for him. I was impressed with his soft coat but there were his greatly diminished eyes slits! I wondered if he had been blind, but he reminded me so much of a mole I had to begin the Google search and found your blog. Very interesting – thank you.

  70. Love these facts! I’ll be using some of them for a math lesson (shrews are tiny).

  71. Great piece. Thanks eversomuch.
    Small creatures: the loudest chattering we heard in Central Park was (i discovered) a tiny chipmunk six feet from our walking path.
    Was it annoyed or calling out? Dunno. But the rest of the group was scoping for a larger animal possible on a tree branch.
    There must be a shrew or two in Central Park tho.?

  72. In 2 separate incedents over a 2 week period I found dead short tail shrews under my bird feeder in almost the same exact spot. What’s going on?

  73. Thank you for this very informative and fun information. I live in northern Oregon-and saw my first one today!

  74. WOW … such ‘Amazing’ facts about Shrews………… WOW WOW WOW !!!

    I’ve always loved shrews – coming across these little rodents in the fields or my garden in Cornwall. But I have to say I had literally no idea just how amazing they are. I’d love to know more. For example do they really have 800 stomachs??
    The other amazing thought is ‘who’ discovered all these facts? I have to say they will make fabulous ‘pub quiz’ questions which I am currently collating for our village!

    Apologies, I didn’t introduce myself… my name is Naomi Campbell (sorry to disappoint, but I am not the beautiful black super model!!). I’m a nurse and Mum of four now grown up children. However, my claim to fame is that I have a ‘Fairy Godmother’… in fact you may already know of her?.. her name is Anna Merz (RIP) 2013, aged 81 years. She is recognised as one of (if not .. the) World’s experts about ‘Black Rhino’ . This is the link to her obituary in the Times newspaper https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/anna-merz-s6vrg2vvg86
    and New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/22/world/africa/anna-merz-protector-of-black-rhinos-dies-at-81.html.

    Above all else I believe this youtube link is her legacy, and the last time I saw her before she died, I made a promise to her that I would continue her mission, in what ever capacity I can

    So my absolute aim is to try and get her voice shared on social media e.g. ‘go viral’ during this weekends G7 Global Summit (which starts in Cornwall tomorrow). Ironically Cornwall was Anna’s childhood home and met and became life long friends with my belated dearest Mother (Pat Hyde), hence that is why Anna is my Godmother!)………

    I’m really not very good on social media, but I am going to try and up my game and get something posted on facebook. But please if you felt Anna’s words are appropriate, please can I kindly ask you to share the link via your contacts – in anticipation I would be eternally grateful for your support.
    This is another link but quite a long and fascinating read https://legendsandlegaciesofafrica.org/Talking%20with%20Anna%20Mertz.pdf

    Very best wishes

  75. Great article, thank you. On a hike though the Redwoods, here in northern California, my friends and I encountered 8-10 shrews and 1 mole dead in the middle of the path. I’ve noticed this phenomenon on many walks in the woods but I have never heard or read an explanation. Are they left there by predators that decided not to consume them due to the musky taste?

  76. I really appreciated the facts and the dedication you have shared, towards making me more aware of the marvelous and intricate world we all share together, with these facinating little creatures.

  77. I love your closing statement, “And here I am, still sharing shrew facts”. I find it truly satisfying when an educator can be proven right in ways even they didn’t consider!

  78. My Mom years ago lived out in the country and had mice and shrews. She proceeded to rid her yard of both because they came inside her home.
    She called the Washington State Extension Service in Puyallup.
    The Dr. there told her to bring the shrews to his place and explained they didn’t carry vermin like mice and rats and killed their babies.
    Said he’d gladly take them off her hands. She left them alone and they delt with the rodents.
    I enjoyed your article. Thank you

  79. Could a shrewd be gnawing the paint off my metal patio table and chairs?

  80. Just this past weekend we were out at a local event with family, including my sister’s Shiba Inu. The year old dog was trying to snap up dropped kettle corn, so no one thought much of it when she snatched up a mouthful of something we figured was grass…until my sister let out a horrified “Oh my God, it’s an animal!”

    The dog managed to catch a short tailed shrew…of course we were all horrified in different amounts. My sister was so upset her dog had killed an innocent creature. I was uneasy because there were a lot of children’s events centered in the area…and my poor boyfriend had to pry the dog’s mouth open and get the poor shrew carcass out.

    The dog was mad she lost her trophy.

    Over everything though, I was astounded the dog, while on a leash nonetheless, managed to snag something like a shrew, since they are so fast!

    I know Shiba’s are hunters, but still!

  81. I have a shrew living behind my AGA, I have no idea what it can be living on. Would it eat dried worms? Why will it not go away, I leave the door to the garden open all day long and even into early evening but the shrew has taken no advantage of the escape route. I have no wish to kill it but do not want it dying behind the Aga. Help please

  82. I’ve just (and accidentally) caught a shrew – the cat was chasing it and I thought it was a baby mouse. Finally caught it, it’s now in a jar, and has been there for the past 10 minutes until I can figure out the next step. What to do? It was an odd looking fieldmouse… I googled, pointed muzzle rodent and the little rodent was quickly identified. And from Matthew Miller’s article, I now know a lot more about shrews than I did five minutes ago. Thank you, MM. Super article!!! But now what to do? He’s teeny tiny and doing his best to get out of the jar (furnished with an almond, water source, a weed and its root). I’ll add some earth, too. My priority now (getting a rodent out of the house was top priority) is to get him to safety/survival. I’ll get that figured out shortly, but should anyone in a similar situation be reading this in the future, maybe it will help you help the shrew.

    By the way, I doubt a shrew can be tamed… Not in his interest. Live, fast, die young, leave a good-looking (the rest doesn’t need explaining) – James Dean paraphrase.

  83. Thank you for sharing. I’ve always been fascinated by the little creatures. I’ve learned quite a bit through your writings. Keep up the good work, many of us really appreciate you.

  84. I so enjoyed reading your article. I was always find of the shrew and oddly enough Theodore Roosevelt. I am happy to see that you took your teachers advice. A ++ 🙂

    Unironically shrews are rad

  86. Is it possible for a shrew to get into a human ear? I have picture that might blow your mind. Yea, my ear.

  87. This was so fun and informative to read! Thank you! I have Shrews in my house at the moment and was trying to look up EVERYTHING for pest control!I honestly didn’t even know what a shrew was until today! Also, I Love the humor added into this informative information! Thank you! It made for a great read!

  88. Excellent, informative article. I had no knowledge of the shrew and have never seen one. As this article mentioned, most people don’t. Quite interesting!

  89. The conclusion is adorable. I would enjoy reading your paper, but alas so much plagiarism. We are reduced to short snippets of our writings. Keep up your good work both in the field and at your desk. 🙂

    PS Glancing through the comments, your readers are almost exclusively nature scientists. My interest is #8!

  90. I live in Michigan. We just had a snow storm which left about a foot or more of snow in the yard. As I looked out the window I noticed a small trail on the surface of our side yard. When I visually tracked the trail to the end, there was a snowball. It was out in the middle of the yard, nothing around it. I went away, came back and the “snowball” had moved, about 3 ft. Over the next hour I watched this phenomenon. The next time it moved about 10 ft., the next time about 3-4 ft. One of the times it moved I was able to get it on video, moving about 4-6 ft. What is this? A shrew?

  91. My cat caught something that I thought was a mole. It had claws and big teeth in the front. What do you think this was?

  92. Woah! It’s nice to know that there are still people who care this much about species like this!

  93. A shrew approached me in the wild when I was mountain biking one day. The shrew came right up to me and did several somersaults, then just stared at me. I squatted down and the shrew came even closer, then wandered away into some brush, never to be seen again. Is this normal?

    1. Hi Craig,
      Thanks for your question. This is highly unusual behavior. Shrews are quite tiny and have poor eyesight, so I am surprised it was staring at you. Could it possibly be another mammal?


  94. My husband and I think we have a shrew living among the trees in a hole in our back yard. Should we leave it alone and let it do it’s natural job, or should we try to get rid of it? Honestly, I like the idea of keeping it around because it takes care of other pests, but I want to make sure it isn’t a threat to my grandchildren.

    1. Hi Cheri,
      Thanks for your comment. Shrews won’t pose any threat to your grandchildren. They are very secretive and fast, and don’t pose a realistic danger to humans of any size.


  95. from december 2019 when I first found a shrew in my kitchen, I begin to collect foto and movies of them.
    I buried 6 of them. I think killed by their own. I think that when you see them in daytime they are already dying , slowing of movement is barely noticeable at first. I have many movie mostly nocturnal from hunting camera but some color by day. There are interval of months but maybe due that I was not aware od their presence and so don’t used the camera. Willing to learn and share my photo an movies

  96. I’ll wold be happy to find someone to answer my question about shrews : filmed about 7 of them in my home 2020 2021,2022 . Only once two at same time for 0.2s. Last one, still with me, appeared in my bed
    and thereafter keep distance.
    Feed him with ground meat and water. Hope he find insect somewhere
    Thanks to anybody who will contact me

  97. I understan they are doing cancer research. My house here is totally infested with shrew. Do you know who i contact

  98. 53 years ago I attended a few weeks of Hebrew School at my parents behest. It wasn’t for me. However, I vaguely remember a discussion that we likely evolved from shrews. Do you have any thoughts or information on that, putting creationism v. evolution aside? Strictly a theoretical conversation.

  99. Mice will pee and s— everywhere so it is easy to know there is one in the house. I recently moved to PEi and had a shrew in the kitchen. It ate food on my counter but left no excrement. Then I knew something was up – not a mouse. Is this because they burn up their food quickly?

  100. I have a shrew in my bedroom. It was camping out under my bed to I put my mattress on the floor. Will the shrew crawl on me while Im sleeping and bite or attack me? Thank you for your help because I was sleeping in my car because my back is killing me!
    Sincerely Priscilla

  101. I have browse a couple of of the articles on your web site currently, and that i adore your vogue.

  102. I just found a shrew in my apt. Sorry my cat found it lol Sept 6th 2022. At 3am, I heard a loud sqeak and new my cat would have eventually killed it. I don’t like seeing any animal hurt so I locked my cat in the bedroom and covered the entrance of the door. Took me over half hour to get it out, he or she moved very fast. Finally it was on top of a board but under a square piece of carpet so I carried the whole thing outside and it was finally freed. I live in Ontario, Canada and never seen this type of mammal before, so decided to look up small mice with pointed nose. Happy he survived.