Don Linzey & Christy Brecht
Wytheville Community College
Wytheville, Virginia 24382
- Adult total length:
3 3/4 - 4 1/4 in. (95 - 108 mm)
3/4 - 1 1 /4 in. (18 - 30 mm)
- Hind foot:
1 1/2 - 3 1/4 in. (12 - 20 mm)
1/2 - 1 oz. (14 - 28 g)
The short, dense, velvet fur is uniformly slate
gray with slightly paler underparts. The short tail is well haired. In overall
length, the short-tailed shrew is the second largest of the eight species of
shrews found in the park. By weight, however, it is the heaviest. Shrews possess
long tapering snouts and tiny eyes and ears. Hearing and smell are acute. The
tips of the incisor teeth are dark chestnut in color. Shrews have five toes on
left lateral view of
skull and mandible
dorsal view of skull
ventral view of skull
The short-tailed shrew inhabits the forests and grasslands of the eastern half
of the United States and adjacent Canada south to Georgia and Alabama. The range
extends west to Saskatchewan, North Dakota, and Central Nebraska.
Moist woodland bordering swamps and streams with some leaf litter and low
herbaceous vegetation seems to be preferred.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
The short-tailed shrew can be found in almost all kinds of
habitats at all elevations. It is one of the most widely
distributed mammals in the park.
- Blount Co.:
Cades Cove; Spence Field (5,000 feet).
- Cocke Co.:
Cosby (1,750 - 2,500 feet); near Low Gap (3,300 -
3,400 feet); Snake Den Mountain (3,800 feet); Cosby
Knob shelter (4,800 feet).
- Sevier Co.:
park headquarters (1,400 feet); Foothills Parkway (1,100 feet
to 2,400 feet); Greenbrier (1,800 - 4,700 feet); Cherokee Orchard
(2,400 feet); Elkmont (2,500 feet); Fish Camp Prong (2,730 feet);
Newfound Gap Road (3,000 - 4,000 feet); Big Branch (3,200 feet);
Fort Harry Cliffs (3,200 feet); Alum Cave parking area- Grassy Patch
(3,800 feet); near Rocky Spring Gap; Beech Gap; Horseshoe Mountain;
West Prong of the Little Pigeon River (4,000 feet); Walker Prong
(4,700 feet); Bullhead Trail; Indian Gap (5,200 feet); Mt. Guyot
(6,300 feet); Mt. LeConte.
- State (Tenn. - N.C.) line:
Laurel Tops (5,650 feet); Mt. Chapman (5,750
feet); Mt. Kephart (6,000 - 6,200 feet);
Silers Bald; Clingmans Dome (6,642 feet).
- Haywood Co.:
Big Creek Ranger Station (1,600 - 3,000 feet );
Cataloochee Cove (2,600 - 2,700 feet);
Walnut Bottom (3,042 feet); Pin Oak Gap
(3,500 feet); Black Camp Gap (4,550 feet).
- Swain Co.:
Kanati Fork (2,800 feet); seven miles east of Smokemont
(3,000 - 3,100 feet); Beech Flats Creek (4,000 feet);
Moore Springs shelter; Heintooga Overlook (5,300 feet);
Silers Bald (5,600 feet); Peaks Corner shelter
(5,500 - 6,000 feet); Forney Creek Trail;
Forney Ridge parking area (6,400 feet);
Clingmans Dome (6,400 feet).
Short-tailed shrews breed from late winter to September.
In the park, nursing females have been reported in June,
July, and September (Linzey, 1995b).
A lactating female was recorded in the spruce-fir zone
on September 22 (Smith and Mouzon, 1985).
Males in breeding condition have been found in March and
September. Gestation lasts 21 to 22 days, and litters
usually consist of 4 to 7 young. A female containing 4
embyos was recorded in the park on July 1
(Linzey, 1995b). Spring young tend to
mature more rapidly than autum young and may breed in late
summer or autum (George, 1999).
Shrew nests are about 6 to 8 inches in diameter with
a 2 to 4 inch inside diameter. They are composed of finely
shredded grasses and leaves. Young are weaned and
independent at 4 weeks of age.
Although individuals may live up to 30 months,
generally only 11% live more than a year
- Terrestrial Ecology
Short-tailed shrews make shallow runways
beneath the surface litter. They also use
the burrows and runways of other animals.
Nests of dry leaves and grasses are
constructed beneath logs, stumps, and rocks.
Individuals generally are solitary
except during the mating season.
Although short-tailed shrews are active both day and night during all seasons of
the year, they are most active at night and in the early morning
(George, 1999). They tend to be more active on cloudy days rather than on
sunny or rainy days. They feed primarily on earthworms, millipedes, insects,
arachnids, and molluscs. In the park, individuals have been reported feeding on
millipedes, insects and insect larvae, gastropods, earthworms, and the fungus
Endogone (Komarek and Komarek, 1938; Linzey and Linzey,
1973). The short-tailed shrew is the only poisonous mammal in North America.
The poison is both a neurotoxin and a hemotoxin. The poison is produced by the
submaxillary salivary gland and is present in the saliva. It acts as a slow poison and
immobilizes insects and other prey. Immobilized insects remain alive for 3 to 5
days and provide a source of fresh non-decomposing food.
Home ranges average about 2.5 hectares (George, 1999).
Individual ranges overlap; short-tailed shrews are not thought to be territorial.
- Predators and Defense
These shrews have a particularly strong musky odor.
For this reason, some predators such as foxes and
bobcats may kill these shrews but not eat them. In the
park, known predators include black rat snakes
(Elaphe obsoleta), barred owls (Strix varia),
and spotted skunks (Spilogale putorius).
The flea Epitedia wenmanni testor
has been reported in the park
Links to Other Sites
- Special Protection Status
- In Park:
All plants and animals are protected within Great
Smoky Mountains National Park.
Collection requires a permit which is usually granted only for
research or educational purposes.
- Map development
- Web page design & coding
- Denise Lim, University of Georgia, Athens
- John Pickering, University of Georgia, Athens
George, S. B. 1999.
Northern short-tailed shrew. Pages 47-49.
In: Wilson, D. E. and S. Ruff (editors).
The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals.
Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
Komarek, E. V. and R. Komarek. 1938.
Mammals of the Great Smokey Mountains.
Bulletin of the Chicago Academy of Science S(6):137-162.
Linzey, D. W. 1995a.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Inc., Blacksburg, Virginia.
Linzey, D. W. 1995b.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park-1995 Update.
Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 111(1):1-81.
Linzey, D. W. and A. V. Linzey. 1973.
Notes of food of small mammals from Great Smoky
Mountains National Park, Tennessee-North Carolina.
Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 89 (1 and 2): 6-14.
Smith, T. R. and J. M. Mouzon. 1985.
Small mammal survey in the spruce-fir zone of
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Typewritten
final research report. In library of Great Smoky
Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Last modified: 8 April, 2002