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Venomous Mammals

Short Tailed Shrew

Short-tailed shrews are insectivores. These mole-like mammals are just three inches (8 cm) long and weigh one ounce (30 grams). They are not considered an endangered species. There are four American species: Northern, Southern, Elliot's, and the Everglades short-tailed shrew. They all live on the American continent, from Canada to the southern USA.

The northern short-tailed shrew tends to live in cooler latitudes and is the largest of its kind. The southern is the smallest and is found in the southeastern United States. They hunt small animals like insects, spiders and centipedes, killing them with their little claws. Their fangs come into play on animals larger. The poisonous saliva finishes off larger mice and amphibians.

Northern Short Tailed Shrew Northern Short Tailed Shrew - Photo: Steven Byland/Shutterstock


Are Short-Tailed Shrews Dangerous to Humans?

No, their toxin is not deadly to humans. They can only use it to subdue (paralyze) animals not much bigger than themselves. A bite is very painful though, and will cause bad swelling for several days. Thankfully this is very rare.

Much worse for humans is this animal’s awful stench! This is particularly unpleasant if one has managed to get into your home. Foxes, raccoons and cats may try to hunt these animals but don’t eat them - because of the smell.

Why Do We Need Short-Tailed Shrews?

When an animal is “ugly”, is venomous and smells bad, you might wonder why the planet Earth really needs them. You might not think it at first glance, but these furry little insectivores gobble up insects like their lives depend on it. They make sure that insect populations don’t get out of hand, so the balance of nature is maintained.

Find our shrew fact sheet here!


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