Field Guide/Mammals/Northern Short-tailed Shrew

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Blarina brevicauda (Northern Short-tailed Shrew)
Family: Soricidae
Size: Total Length: 4.3-5.5 inches (11-14cm)

Tail Length: about 20% of total length [1]

Weight: 0.35-1oz. (10-30g)
Description: Soft dark gray fur that covers even the ears. Pointed head attaches to robust body. They also have chestnut colored teeth [1] .[2]
Similar Species: The difference between Southern Short-tailed Shrew and the Northern Short-tailed Shrew is where they live. Northern Short-tailed shrews generally live north of Oklahoma. The tooth structure is slightly also slightly different.

Range: Northern Short-tailed shrews live in central and eastern United States and Canada, mostly keeping north of Oklahoma.
Habitat: The Northern Short-tailed shrew lives in woodlands with lots of brush cover, sticks and leaf-litter. Nearby food is also a necessity, so shrews will leave if they cannot find enough to eat.
Diet: Shrews eat worms, snails, centipedes, beetles, invertebrates, mice, and smaller shrews. They eat up to 3 times their body weight per day.
Activity: Northern short-tailed shrews are nocturnal, but can be active 24 hours a day. Most of a shrew’s energy is spent constructing narrow burrow systems or moving in where other animals lived .[3]

Reproduction: Northern short-tailed shrews breed from February – November, peaking in mid-spring and late summer or early fall. Young may reproduce at 60 days. Gestation is 20-21 days. Birth litters are 4-5 shrews in a nest, and these nests are constructed ideally under a fallen log with ample brush cover.
Lifespan: Northern short-tailed shrews live about 1.5 years.

Notes: Northern Short-tailed shrews have poison in their saliva that allows them to attack their predators and prey in the face, paralyzing and preserving the creature until the shrew is ready to eat. The poison is not deadly to humans. In the wild they try to kill each other and live alone, but in captivity they will sleep together peacefully and try to get to the bottom of the pile.[1]
Northern Short-tailed Shrew


  1. a b c George, S.B.; Choate, J.R. (1986), B.J.Verts; K.J.J.Jones; T.E.Lawlor, eds., "Blarina brevicauda", Mammalian Species (Los Angeles, CA) 261: 1–9, 
  2. Whitaker, J.O. (1980), A.A.Knopf, ed., "Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda)", Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals (New York: Chanticleer Press, Inc.): 48, 279, 291–293 
  3. NatureServe (2012), "Northern Short-tailed Shrew", NatureServe Explorer: An Online Encyclopedia of Life.,