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Blarina brevicauda

Northern Short-tailed Shrew

Order: Soricomorpha
Family: Soricidae

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Image of Blarina brevicauda
Blarina sp. - summer coat
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Conservation Status: Least Concern.

Northern Short-tailed Shrews have poisonous saliva. This enables them to kill mice and larger prey and paralyze invertebrates such as snails and store them alive for later eating. The shrews have very limited vision, and rely on a kind of echolocation, a series of ultrasonic "clicks," to make their way around the tunnels and burrows they dig. They nest underground, lining their nests with vegetation and sometimes with fur. They do not hibernate. Their day is organized around highly active periods lasting about 4.5 minutes, followed by rest periods that last, on average, 24 minutes. Population densities can fluctuate greatly from year to year and even crash, requiring several years to recover. Winter mortality can be as high as 90 percent in some areas. Fossils of this species are known from the Pliocene, and fossils representing other, extinct species of the genus Blarina are even older.

Also known as:
Short-tailed Shrew, Mole Shrew

Sexual Dimorphism:
Males may be slightly larger than females.

Range: 118-139 mm

Range: 18-30 g


Say, T., 1823.  in Account of an expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains: performed in the years 1819 and ’20, by order of the Hon. J.C. Calhoun, sec’y of war, under the command of Major Stephen H. Long : from the notes of Major Long, Mr. T. Say, and other gentlemen of the exploring party compiled by Edwin James, botanist and geologist for the expedition; in two vols., H.C. Carey and I. Lea, Philadelphia,1822-23. Vol 1, p 164.


Mammal Species of the World

Mammalian Species, American Society of Mammalogists' species account

Distribution of Blarina brevicauda

Image of Blarina brevicauda
Click to enlarge. (205kb)

Image of Blarina brevicauda
Blarina sp. - winter coat
Click to enlarge. (47kb)

Skull of Blarina brevicauda
Click to enlarge. (20kb)