Posted by: PMGDD | April 4, 2012

Masked Shrew – Jim Saunders

      While walking on Ken Cook’s road on Monday, February 20, I spotted something that turned out to be a Masked Shrew which has a black-tipped tail.  I believe it had been run over by a snowmobile.  Thanks to Dave for confirmation of the ID:
     “It is the Masked Shrew (Sorex cinereus) which is very common to abundant in N.B. “The Land Mammals of New Brunswick” (Dilworth, 1984) gives the following length measurements with the averages given first followed by the ranges in parentheses: Total length – 97 mm (82 – 120), Tail length – 41.1 mm (32 – 50)
     Both the total and tail lengths of your specimen fits within these values very well with the total length being about 90 mm and the tail being 44 mm long judging by the first photo.
     My first question was why was it on the road?  I thought it might have been after Springtails which were quite plentiful along the east side of the road.  However according to the sites I visited, Springtails aren’t listed as part of their diet.  It might require a late night outing to find out because it is reported that the Masked Shrew is most active between 1 and 2 am.
     From the Adirondack Ecological Centre website(,   “The masked shrew has the largest range of any North American shrew, and occurs  throughout Alaska, Canada, the northern third of the U.S., as well as portions of the Great Basin, Rockies, and Appalachians.”  Also “Insects comprise 65% of the diet, which also includes centipedes, spiders, earthworms, and carrion. Occasionally, masked shrews kill and consume small animals such as salamanders and nestling birds. Small, soft seeds may form part of the winter diet.”  There is a lot of other interesting information about the Masked Shrew on this site.
     Masked Shrew 1 is a photo with the hairs around the mouth and nose.  These are important sensors that help the shrew navigate and detect food. – Jim and Dave



  1. A quick check in the Peterson Field Guide to the Mammals gives the following: Recorded heartbeats more than 1200 per minute,; respiration equally high.
    It’s no wonder they have a very short lifespan.

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