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How many species of Shrew are there world-wide?
a) Less than 75
b) Roughly 100
c) Exactly 150
d) Over 250
Correct Trivia Answer: d) Over 250
The shrew is a small, mouse-sized mammal with an elongated snout, a dense fur of uniform color, small eyes, and five clawed toes on each foot. Its teeth are small, sharp, and commonly dark-tipped. Shrews are similar to mice except that mice have four toes on their front feet, larger eyes, bi-colored fur, and lack an elongated snout.
Worldwide, over 250 species of shrews are recognized, with over 30 species recognized in the United States and Canada. Shrews are in the taxonomic order Insectivora. As the name implies, insects make up a large portion of the typical shrew diet. Shrews eat beetles, grasshoppers, butterfly and moth larvae, ichneumonid wasps, crickets, spiders, snails, earthworms, slugs, centipedes, and millipedes. Shrews also eat small birds, mice, small snakes, and even other shrews when the opportunity presents itself. Seeds, roots, and other vegetable matter are also eaten by some species of shrews.
Shrews are among the world’s smallest mammals. Because of their small size, shrews have a proportionally high surface-to-volume ratio and lose body heat rapidly. Thus, to maintain a constant body temperature, they have a high metabolic rate and need to consume food as often as every 3 to 4 hours. Shrews usually do not live longer than 1 to 2 years, but they have 1 to 3 litters per year with 2 to 10 young per litter.
Shrews have an acute sense of touch, hearing, and smell, with vision playing a relatively minor role. Some shrews are mostly nocturnal; others are active throughout the day and night. They frequently use the tunnels made by voles and moles. Many predators kill shrews, but few actually eat them. Owls in particular consume large numbers of shrews.
Shrews occasionally fall into window wells, attack pets, attack birds or chipmunks at feeders, feed on stored foods, contaminate stored foods with feces and urine, and bite humans when improperly handled. Shrews are not protected by federal laws, with one exception. The southeastern shrew is protected in the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and North Carolina by the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
Rodent-proofing will exclude shrews from entering structures. Place hardware cloth of 1/4-inch mesh over potential entrances to exclude shrews. Coarse steel wool placed in small openings can also exclude shrews. For help with rodent-proofing your home, please call 1-800-CRITTER (274-8837) to speak with the Critter Control office nearest you.
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