The long-tailed shrew is a mid-sized shrew with a slim body and long tail. It lives in cool, rocky, forested areas and can be found year-round in the Appalachian Mountains.
The long-tailed shrew has a slender body, long snout, small eyes and a long, thick tail. Its body averages to 2.75 inches in length, and its tail can be between 2.2 to 2.5 inches long. The long-tailed shrew is dark gray with slightly paler under parts. These shrews are often confused with the smoky shrew, but the smoky shrew has a wider body and a shorter, bicolored tail.
Long-tailed shrews need to eat almost constantly because of their small size and active lifestyles. They often eat twice their body weight in a day. They feed mostly above ground, on plant materials and small invertebrates such as centipedes, beetles, spiders, flies and crickets.
The long-tailed shrew’s major predators include snakes, weasels, other small mammals and birds of prey. In order to avoid predators, long-tailed shrews normally feed at night and remain under forest debris. Since they are small and can be confused for mice, they also have a distinct musky odor that can deter predators.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Since long-tailed shrews are relatively rare, not much is known about their reproduction and development. It is known that they reproduce between April and August, and they can have multiple litters each year. When born, long-tailed shrews have no fur and live in a nest made of grass and leaves. They stay there for about four or five weeks, until they are weaned. Then they gain some independence, but spend the next several weeks foraging with their mother.
Shrews tend to have short lifespans, and it is estimated that long-tailed shrew live up to two years in the wild. They are active during the day and at night throughout the year. They are generally solitary animals and spend almost all of their time foraging.
Did You Know?
- Long-tailed shrews prefer higher elevations, and live primarily in mountainous environments. They can be found along mountain streams and amid the debris surrounding rock slides.
- Because of its habitat preferences, long-tailed shrews are also known as rock shrews.
- Long-tailed shrews have relatively narrow skulls and front teeth that stick out, adaptations designed to help remove invertebrates from rocky crevices.
- Their long tails likely help them balance as they travel along rocks
Sources and Additional Information
- Animal Diversity Web: Sorex dispar – University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
- Long-tailed shrew – Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
- Peterson Field Guide to the Mammals of North America North of Mexico by William H. Burt and Richard P. Grossenheider
- North American Mammals: Sorex dispar – Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
- Long-tailed Shrew – Tennessee’s Watchable Wildlife