This beautiful animal appears like a small rat or mouse. It has long mouth/nose with long whiskers. It moves rapidly with irritating body movements like snake usually around corners. It has offensive smell. It sometimes finds its way into our houses. In Nigeria, Yoruba call it ‘Asin’ or ‘Eku Asin’. It is also called ‘Nkapi’ or ‘Nkakwu’ by some tribes in Nigeria. Its English name is Shrew.
A typical shrew’s heart beating rate is 800 to 1000 beats/minute. There is a shrew specie called Etruscan shrew which has a very fast heart beating rate of up to 1511 beats/minute. This Etruscan shrew is the smallest terrestrial mammal on Earth. Shrews, because of their high metabolism, they eat a lot to survive. They are constantly in search of food. Many species eat up to one to two times their body weight’s worth of food every day for them to survive.
Insects make up a large portion of shrews’ food. They eat beetles, grasshoppers, butterfly and moth larvae, ichneumonid wasps, crickets, spiders, snails, earthworms, slugs, centipedes, and millipedes. They have small eyes and generally poor vision, but have excellent senses of hearing and smell.
Some shrew species are venomous. The venomous shrew species have toxic saliva used for hunting. The venom gets into wounds on their preys as the shrews bite, paralysing the preys. Some of the paralysed preys can stay for hours or days so that the food would be readily available for the shrews.
While shrew venom may be fatal for insects and small animals like mice, shrew venom is not dangerous to humans and other bigger animals like cats, dogs, etc. Their bites may result in some pain and swelling, but are not usually serious. However, as with any type of wildlife bite, seek medical attention if you’re bitten by shrew to avoid possible infection or disease.
(Photo Credit: www.marybarrettdyer.blogspot.com, www.uniprot.org)