Long-tailed Forest Shrew

Long tailed forest shrew.


Appearance

The Forest Shrew is a mottled, medium-sized shrew. Colouration is grey-brown to dark grey-brown. Head and body length is about 83 mm, with a relative short tail of about 45 mm. Weighs on average 12 grams. First described to science in 1832 from Port Elizabeth.

Diet

The Forest Shrew is an opportunistic feeder, taking a great variety of invertebrates like beetles, grasshoppers, termites, moths, spiders, millipedes and earthworms. In turn, it is preyed upon by the barn owl, water mongoose, African Weasel and the Striped Polecat.

Breeding

At higher altitudes the breeding season may be delayed for a month, due to lower ambient temperatures. At normal altitudes the breeding season lasts for seven months, starting in September and ending in March. Litter sizes vary between two and five young. These shrews have an advanced maternal care behavioural pattern. Nipple-clinging is practiced by the young for the first five to six days. This behaviour is replaced firstly by clustering of young, and then to the formation of a chain, called ‘caravanning'. Caravanning entails each offspring gripping the the tail of the preceding sibling in its mouth, thus following the foraging mother like a caravan. Weaning takes place between 20-25 days after birth.

Behaviour

Predominantly nocturnal, showing a sharp rise in activity at dusk and sharp decline at dawn. Extremely cautious when leaving the shelter. Like most shrews, it is remarkably aggressive. The insides of its burrows and nests are spherical. Nests are constructed from grass, and equipped with two to four entrances.

Where they are found

Endemic to the eastern regions of South Africa and Lesotho. Found in a variety of vegetation types, ranging from vegetation associated with permanent water on the highveld, to montane grasslands and primary forests.



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