Recently a neighbor of mine, Dave Maggio was having some work performed in his yard by a heavy equipment operator. In the process of digging a ditch, the operator uncovered some small mammals scurrying for safety. Upon close examination we identified them as moles and shrews. What an opportunity for an article.
Starting with the Mole, the one observed was a star-nosed mole, based upon the time we had to observe its characteristic nose structure. This little mammal has a range from northeastern Canada through the western Great Lakes and as far south as the Carolinas, If they are present on your property they can be detected almost all hours and seasons due to the presence of the small tunnels they create as they move through the upper surface of the ground.
The second little burrowing mammal detected was determined to be the common shrew, based upon behavior and expected sighting range, though the animal rapidly moved back into the tunnel being created by the machine. Further research on the life history of this little guy pretty much verifies their existence in this region.
Starting with the moles, as I have reported several times in this article, there are 34 species of shrews and seven species of moles in North America. To further add to the data profile of these animals, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., reports 102 different kinds of mammals in New York State and 49 different mammal species in our county.
Getting back to the star-nosed mole, see the attached submitted photo. Its characteristic nose that actually has a rosette of 22 fleshy rays appearing star-like accounting for its name can identify this little mammal. Usually black or dark-brown in color, its presence can be determined by mounds that it builds or in tunnels under snow. They can be detected in early spring due to the fact that they posses glands which give off a pungent odor similar to wild parsnip. They seem to prefer damp meadows, swamps, moist woods and bogs. They are usually active all hours and seasons, and it is an excellent swimmer. They emit a high-pitched squeak that may or may not be heard by all humans due to the persons hearing ability and distance from the animal. Especially golf course owners for obvious reasons already mentioned do not always appreciate this little guy.
The shrew to be discussed is one of approximately 30 species found in North America, and one of about five found in our area. For the sake of time and space I will discuss the short-tailed shrew that can be found locally. Usually these little mammals prefer dry unmowed fields or dried out marshy areas. As indicated earlier when our little guy was discovered after the machine went through, it was in a grassy region near Dave's home. And was caught in the turmoil of the ditch digger causing it to scurry about for help. Fortunately all appeared safe and sound after some excitement for both humans and animals.
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