Don Linzey & Christy Brecht
Wytheville Community College
Wytheville, Virginia 24382
Last updated: 26 November, 2005
- Adult total length:
2 3/4 - 3 3/8 in. (70 - 85 mm)
1 - 1 1/4 in. (25 - 30 mm)
- Hind foot:
3/8 - 1/2 in. (9 - 12 mm)
1/10 - 1/7 oz. (2 - 4 g)
The pygmy shrew is the smallest mammal In North
America ana among the smallest in the world by weight. Adults weigh
approximately the same as a dime. The fur is grayish-brown above
and grayish below. The tail is indistinctly bi-colored. 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 each foot.
left lateral view of
skull and mandible
dorsal view of skull
ventral view of skull
The pygmy shrew ranges from the Gaspe Peninsula across Canada to Alaska
and south to northeastern Washington, northwestern Montana, Iowa, southern
Wisconsin, and Ohio. The range includes New England and extends southward
along the Appalachian Mountain chain into northern Georgia.
Pygmy shrews range from old fields to hardwood and coniferous forests. They have
been taken under decaying logs as well as in deep leaf litter.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
The pygmy shrew is one of the rarest shrews in the park. It was
not until 1968 that a previously unreported specimen was discovered in the
collections of the University of Illinois Museum of Natural History
(Hoffmeister, 1968). It had been taken on September 6,
1941 at Newfound Gap, Swain County, North Carolina. No other individuals were
recorded until 1991 when six shrews were taken along the Foothills Parkway
(Sevier Co.) at Cove Creek ( 1,430 feet ), King Hollow Branch
( 1,700 to 1,800 feet ), and Caney Creek ( 1,800 to 2,100 feet )
Breeding probably extends from about March to September. Females probably
produce more than one litter annually. Litter sizes range from 2 to 8.
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.
Pygmy shrews probably do not live longer than 16 to 18 months.
- Terrestrial Ecology
Pygmy shrews feed on small arthropods such as grasshoppers and
beetles, worms, and on limited amounts of seeds and berries. Occasionally
they eat carrion (Long, 1999).
The home range of shrews probably covers an area of 1/4 to 1 acre.
- Predators and Defense
Predators include snakes, owls, hawks, and carnivorous mammals including
opossums, foxes, bobcats, weasels, and skunks.
None recorded from 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
Harvey, M.J. 1991. Survey for threatened and endangered mammals on the
right-of- way of proposed segment 8D of the Foothills Parkway. Report
to the Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory,
Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Hoffmeister, D. F. 1968.
Pigmy shrew, Microsorex hoyi winnemana, in
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Journal of Mammalogy 49(2): 331.
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.
Long, C. A. 1999.
Pygmy shrew. Pages 25-27. In: Wilson, D. E. and S. Ruff
(editors). The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals.
Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
Last modified: 8 April, 2002