Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Marsh & Water Shrews

This is not really our water shrew, but looks similar.
Photo by James T M Towill
To see photos of a PNW water shrew, visit
You're sitting on the bank of a small stream when an animal about the size of a mouse swims by underwater like a miniature submarine. The air trapped in its fur makes it appear coated with silver, and little bubbles string out in its wake. You've just seen a marsh shrew.

The Pacific Northwest has two shrews that are as comfortable in the water as they are on land. The marsh shrew (also called the Pacific water shrew) inhabits lower-elevation waterways, particularly marshes and streams, while the water shrew takes the upper elevations.

Both species have "swimming fringes" on the sides of their feet. These stiff, short hairs not only aid the animal in swimming, they also trap air so that, for a few seconds, the shrew can literally run across the water's surface (!).

I've never chanced to see one of these, either running or submerged. How about you?


  1. Cool! I'd love to see something like that.

  2. You and me both, Rebecca!

  3. Maybe someday but not yet. In the past saw plenty of musk rats, not as cute but still provided a lot of entertainment on lazy afternoons.

  4. I was attacked by a shrew once. I was in Washington park

    and this tiny dark fury jumped out of the weeds and went for my boot. It was a full moon, so perhaps the creature was a were-shrew. Jut as vicious as a werewolf, but smaller teeth.

    Definitely not a water shrew, though. How cool are they!?

  5. You have had an interesting life, Roxie.

  6. I have seen more nutria than muskrats--or otters--much prefer them to nutria too...

  7. One of my cats once brought a shrew in from the backyard and I thought it was an odd looking mouse! I caught the frightened thing and set it loose outside.