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Shrews as a Pest    Shrew General Information    Controlling Shrews

List of Common Shrews
Northern Short-Tailed Shrew Southern Short-Tailed Shrew Elliot's Short-Tailed Shrew
Long-Tailed Shrew North American Least Shrew Crawford's Gray Shrew
Smoky Shrew American Pygmy Shrew Arctic Shrew

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Soricomorpha
Family: Soricidae

The term shrew is used to describe a woman with a violent, scolding or nagging temperament.
In all actuality, the shrew as a mammal is not easily seen, is very quiet and has a sub-species that is recognized as the world's smallest living mammal.  The shrew is divided into 376 species, several of which are found in North America.  The largest species is the house shrew, which grows up to 15 cm long and is found in Asia.  The smallest is the American Pygmy shrew, which grows to the size of a thumbnail.  Most have also been found to use echolocation like bats and toothed whales and even though it is considered a mammal, three particular species have been found to be venomous, all of which are found in North America.

Shrews are often mistaken as moles and mice.  Each front foot of a shrew has 5 toes; mice have only 4 toes on each front foot.  Mice also have larger eyes than a shrew and lack the elongated face/snout seen on a shrew.  A shrew somewhat looks like a mole but there are differences which enable you to distinguish between the two.  First, moles are usually larger than shrews.  Next, moles have elongated front teeth.  Another difference between moles and shrews is habitat location: moles tunnel and live underground, shrews thrive above ground.

The Blarina species includes the Northern Short-Tailed Shrew, the Southern Short-Tailed Shrew and Elliot's Short-Tailed Shrew.  All three of these have salivary glands that produce a toxic material that is used to subdue prey like salamanders, frogs, snakes, mice, birds and other shrews.  The poison damages the nerves and destroys the blood cells of the prey once caught.  Once bitten, the prey stays alive for three to five days to be used as fresh food.  The poison can last up to several days and causes a great deal of pain.  Human bites are rare and are usually received only when handling a shrew.  The shrew's poison is not lethal to humans.

The shrew has a very short lifespan and a high reproductive rate.  Many adult females will become pregnant hours after giving birth.  Shrews are apart of the order Soricomorpha which includes four families, three of which are various species of shrews and the fourth being Talipidae or moles.  Shrews and moles are similar creatures, however moles are larger and slower, tunnel underground and eat earthworms, as opposed to the shrew that lives mainly above ground, has a pointed snout and will eat anything they can over power.  In order to maintain its metabolic needs, shrews will eat their approximate weight in food every day.


Shrews as a Pest    Controlling Shrews

Shrews are a nuisance when living near houses and other dwellings. They often fall into window wells, attack pets, attack birds and chipmunks at feeders, feed on stored food, contaminate stored food with feces and urine and bit humans when improperly handled.  They also transmit diseases.
Shrews become a residential pest when they migrate indoors.  Once inside a home, shrews will sometimes live in areas previously occupied by mice; they have also been known to prey on mice in a home.  This may may lead some to believe that a shrew found indoors could be effective rodent control but nothing could be further from the truth.  The pungent smell of a shrew can be smelled outdoors, so just imagine how powerful the smell can be indoors!
Other considerations: shrews contaminate food stuff and will defecate indoors.  Similar to flying bats, an indoor shrew will have one or two areas where it prefers to defecate, as opposed to mice and rats which go wherever they are.

Different kinds of shrew are destructive to different kind of things depending on the area in which they live. The Vagrant Shrew, found in wooded areas in Western Canada, consumes the seeds of the Douglas fir tree. The Least Shrew enters bee hives and destroys the larvae while the Northern Short-Tailed Shrew damages ginseng roots. The Short-Tailed and Masked Shrew climb trees and damage the eggs in birdís nests and consume the seeds in bird feeders. 

The largest of all shrews, the House Shrew, was introduced in Guam and is a host for the rat flea and can carry the plague bacillus.  They are accustomed to living around humans and houses which increases the damage potential. They are considered smelly and noisy and make incessant shrill and clattering sounds.  They often destroy grain products.

Controlling Shrews

Outdoor Shrew Control    Indoor Shrew Control

The vast majority of shrews go about their business, rarely encountering humans or causing harm to our belongings.  When shrews do interact with humans, they can become a pest.  Left alone in the outdoors, this tiny animal eats its weight in insects, grubs, worms, but can sometimes become a pest.  Shrews will sometimes help themselves to food in bird feeders, eat small birds and can even damage certain flowers and bulbs in gardens.  It is not a huge leap for shrews living in our flower beds to somehow find their way indoors.

Outdoor Shrew Control    

Outdoors, some people have had limited success with repellents made from castor oil.  Castor oil repellents are manufactured and marketed for repelling unwanted burrowing animals such as moles, rodents, etc., and can sometimes repel shrews from treated areas.  The presence of owls or cats can be a huge help in reducing shrew populations.  Most predator birds steer clear of shrews, due to their pungent smell, but owls do not seem to be offended by the odor and will prey on shrews as they do mice and other small rodents.
Regular mowing will reduce ground cover as well as desirable insect and bug populations of the shrew.

Snap traps and live traps can be used outdoors, but must be done so with care.  Kill traps (such as wide-trigger mouse traps and T-Rex rat and mouse trap) can kill or injure non-target animals.  Birds and small animals must always be protected from kill traps.  If traps can be safely used, a combination of oats and peanut butter is a popular bait attractant as is bacon grease.

Indoor Shrew Control

When a shrew decides to live inside a residential building, steps must be taken to get rid of shrews or you will have to deal with their odor.  If such an indoor pest has already given a building an unpleasant odor, you must first eliminate the pest before tackling the odor problem.

Controlling shrews indoors can be accomplished by using either live traps or kill traps.  

When using live traps, check the trap 2 or 3 times daily.  If you intend on relocating the shrew, released the animal a minimum of 200 yards from your home or garden.  A half-mile release point would be better; release animal where it can find natural food and shelter.
Small traps that are designed for capturing chipmunks will usually work for shrews; such a trap is large enough to capture a shrew or mouse but does not have large air holes which would allow them to escape.  Bait the trap with the type of foods it is known to eat in the home.  If this is an unknown, combine peanut butter and oatmeal and place about 1 heaping teaspoon of the mixture in the rear of the trap, behind the trigger mechanism.  In pest control and wildlife operations, this small trap is generally known as a Chipmunk and Mouse Trap.

Snap traps and electronic traps can be used in shrew control.  When using snap traps, place as many as possible in any area where you think the animal travels daily in its search for food.  Place trap perpendicular (at right angles) to a wall, preferably behind sofas or heavy appliances or any such area where they travel.
Electronic rodent traps will quickly kill rats, mice or shrews that enter the trap.  These traps are safe to use indoors, without harming dogs or cats.  Generally, animals that weigh more than 10 pounds will not be harmed by an electrocution rodent trap.  The most popular (and most reliable) electronic trap is the Rat Zapper 2000.

Shrews in Folklore

The Ancient Egyptians considered the shrew as the spirit of darkness.
The shrew is mentioned in folklore as a Zuni beast god providing protection for stored grains from raids by rats and mice.

Animals and Pests    Household Pest Control    Pest Control Supplies    Rodent Control Supplies