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MAMMALS » SMALL
American Water Shrew

American Water Shrew
Sorex palustris

The American Water Shrew, which is semi-aquatic and the largest shrew in the state, occurs only in the Appalachian Mountains of extreme eastern Tennessee.

Description
: A relatively large shrew with dark gray or black fur and a silvery-white belly. They have a very pointed snout; a cylindrical body; tiny, black eyes; and a long tail. The fur is dense, soft, and water resistant. The hind feet are wide, webbed, and have fringed or stiff hairs, which act like paddles and aid in swimming.
Length: 5.1 - 6.7 inches
Tail: 2.2 - 3.5 inches
Weight: 0.38 - 0.63 ounces

Similar Species:
The American Water Shrew is easily distinguished from the other shrews by its larger size, longer tail, and stiff hairs on its feet.

Habitat:
Prefers small, cold mountain streams with thick overhanging vegetation; however, can also be associated with rivers, lakes, and bogs.

Diet:
Primarily eats aquatic insects, such as mayfly, stonefly, and caddis fly, including larvae and nymphs, but may also eat terrestrial invertebrates as well.

Breeding information:
Mating season usually lasts from December to September with 2-3 litters produced a year. Females have a 3 week gestation period and then deliver from 3-10 young per litter during the spring or summer. Nests, made of dried vegetation, are placed in tunnels or in hollow logs.

Status in Tennessee:
American Water Shrews are uncommon and Deemed in Need of Management by both TWRA and Tennessee Department or Environment and Conservation.

Fun Facts:
  • American Water Shrews can actually run across water for short distances. Air becomes trapped in their dense fur and the stiff hairs on their feet can hold tiny air bubbles allowing the surface tension of the water to support the shrew's body weight.

Best places to see in Tennessee: Small, cold streams in extreme eastern Appalachian Mountains.

For more information:

Sources:
Beneski, Jr., J. T., and Stinson, D. W. 1987. Sorex palustris. Mammalian Species, 296:1-6.