Thursday, January 20, 2011

Out of the Tunnels - Updated

Update: Since posting this, I've been advised by a pretty knowledgeable fellow that what I have here is a short-tailed shrew, not a vole. The inch-long bare tail and very dark fur would indicate he's right, though the vole (or field mouse) is also described as having a short tail. It never dawned on me that this was a possibility. Here's a page that discusses the differences. If this is a shrew, that's a very interesting creature -- it's carnivorous and venomous as well as eating seeds, for one thing! The Minnesota DNR mammals guide doesn't show a picture, but has a good general discussion about the various shrews found here.

Here's a great description of what voracious eaters they are:
Shrews are opportunistic predators taking whatever prey season, habitat or opportunity presents. Prey includes mice, moles, salamanders, frogs, birds, bird eggs, all types of insects, slugs, snails, isopods, spiders, millipedes and centipedes. Shrews will also eat roots, berries, nuts, fruits, fungi and general vegetable materials if prey is limited or if these materials are abundant. Shrews must continuously eat in order to sustain their very high rate of metabolism. They are active all year round (they do not hibernate) and rely on cached food materials for consumption during times of resource limitations. A short-tail shrew must eat every two or three hours or they will succumb to starvation. 
From The Virtual Nature Trail at Penn State New Kensington

Original post:
I've commented before on the tunnel system built by both red squirrels and voles in the snowpack in our front yard. Here's a peek at the little vole [see update, above] coming out to inspect the pickings under a couple of our bird feeders.

Here is more information on voles and other common Minnesota rodents from the DNR.


Mary S. said...

Quick! Let the cats out!

Sue at EcoStrides said...

We had a shrew running around our yard too. My husband put on some leather gloves and caught it (he's quick and fearless). We put the shrew in a paper bag, walked over to the nearby wooded park and released it!

We did the same once with a mouse that was delivered in our CSA box!

Michael said...

This month we've been observing Northern Shrikes and Northern Short-tailed Shrews around our feeders too.

'Love your blog. We'll be back.

RuthieJ said...

I have these little holes all around the backyard under birdfeeders too. I don't mind them outside, but they're not welcome in the garage! (those unlucky ones are usually found frozen in a mouse trap and become a delicious treat for the crows!)