Northern short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda)

The northern short-tailed shrew is a small animal sometimes mistaken for a field mouse because of its size, but it has a longer nose and shorter tail than a mouse. If you look quickly, you may catch a glimpse of one scampering around the Zoo grounds that they call home.

They only weigh about one ounce. The males are usually a little larger than the females because they have larger skulls. They have gray fur, small eyes and their ears are almost completely hidden by their fur. They differ from other types of shrews by having a shorter, heavier snout than other shrews. They are also known as the best burrowers out of all the shrews. They can tunnel through leaves, snow and plant debris because of their strong paws and heavy snout. They spend most of their time on or under the ground but they can climb trees.
They have poor vision so they use echolocation similar to what bats use to determine their environment. They also have a very strong sense of touch. They have venom in their saliva that can subdue adult mice, which are larger than they are, helping with the capture of prey. 

They build nests in tunnels or under logs and rocks. They also establish elaborate runways under leaves, dirt and snow for quick and safe travel. They need plants that provide cover, so they live in marshes, woodlands, fields and gardens. In the winter they often try to hide from the cold in barns, basements and sheds.


They can be found in most of the northeastern and north-central United States and in southern Canada.


Omnivores, they eat worms, spiders, insects, roots, nuts and berries. They can also eat invertebrates larger than themselves such as salamanders, frogs and snakes.

Life Span: 

Most only live a year but some have been known to live up to three years.

Family Life: 

Females can have 2 to 3 litters per year giving birth to an average of 6 pups. The pups stay in the nest for about 20 days after birth. Within five days of that, they are weaned and must live on their own. Females reach adulthood at 6 weeks while males reach adulthood at 12 weeks. They are solitary animals.