Least Shrew

Cryptotis parva

Least Shrews are one of our smallest mammals, growing only up to three inches long. They have grayish-brown or reddish-brown fur, with a white belly. Their fur becomes lighter in the Summer, and darker in the Winter. Least Shrews have a very short tail.

This animal lives in forests, or weedy fields. They are active during the day, but most active at night.

Least Shrews have poor sight and hearing, so they hunt by smell and touch. They dig through loose soil and leaf litter for prey.

 

R. W. Van Devender

 

Least Shrews eat earthworms, spiders, snails, slugs, caterpillars, beetles, insect larvae, grasshoppers, crickets, centipedes, millipedes, isopods, small frogs, salamanders, and lizard tails.

They sometimes eat carrion (dead animals) and small amounts of seeds or fruits.

When eating crickets and grasshoppers, the shrew will bite off the head and then open the insect's body, eating only the internal organs.

 

When attacking larger animals such as a frog or praying mantis, the Least Shrew will bite the legs, crippling its prey.

Lizards, which are usually too large for the shrew, get bitten on the tail, which comes off. The lizard escapes with its life, and the shrew eats the tail.

Least Shrews will invade a bee hive and eat all the larvae. Sometimes it will then live in the hive.

Copyright 1999, The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals

Wayne Van Devender

Least Shrews are social animals, and often share burrows. These animals make nests out of leaves or dig burrows which they line with leaves and grass. They also will use old burrows and runways of other mammals, such as voles.

Least Shrews will sometimes share food, and they will also store it for later.

Least Shrews breed year round and have several litters a year. Up to nine young will be in a litter. They will nurse for about three weeks and be on their own after a month. Both parents help raise the young. Least Shrews communicate with each other using high-pitched sounds.

Least Shrews rarely live more than a year.

Predators of Least Shrews include owls, hawks, Red Fox, Raccoon, Sriped Skunk, and snakes.

One defense used by Least Shrews is their saliva. It has venom in it.

Relationships in Nature:

PREY/FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Earthworm

Red Fox

Poison Ivy

Meadow Vole SP

Leopard Slug

Black Rat Snake

Virginia Creeper

American Dog Tick Pa

Painted Lady

Barred Owl

Bracken Fern

Field Cricket

Red-tailed Hawk

Red Clover

Spring Peeper

Copperhead

Smooth Sumac

Five-lined Skink

Raccoon

Greenbrier

Rabid Wolf Spider

Striped Skunk

Wild Grape

European Gypsy Moth

Northern Ringneck Snake

Cinnamon Fern

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth

Northern Water Snake

Lamb's Quarters

Horned Fungus Beetle

Eastern Hognose Snake

Running Cedar

Garden Centipede

Ring-billed Gull

Bushy Aster

North American Millipede

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Wild Strawberry

Isopod

Norway Rat

Virginia Rose

Chinese Mantid

Honey Bee

Eastern Yellow Jacket

River Birch

Common Black Ground Beetle

Meadow Vole

Relationship to Humans:

Least Shrews are very helpful to people as pest controllers. Since they eat their bodyweight everyday, they destroy many insect and slug pests. You will rarely see a Least Shrew, but if you do, don't pick it up! The venom in Least Shrews' saliva is not fatal for humans, but it will cause pain and swelling for several days.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Chordate
CLASS
Mammal
ORDER
Insectivora
FAMILY
Soricidae
GENUS
Cryptotis
SPECIES
Cryptotis parva

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