Shrews are a small, mouse sized mammal which have long snouts, small eyes and a five clawed toe. It’s head is much more narrow than a rodents and they many times have dark tipped teeth. This is a mineral pigmentation which serves to protect tooth wear. Unlike rodents, shrews do not grow teeth that can stand to wear down. The commonly found house shrew lacks this pigmentation but other traits make it easy to identify.
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SHREW IDENTIFICATION AND BIOLOGY
Shrews have cork screw shaped feces and like flying squirrels, will many times choose one or two locations which they readily use over and over as a kind of “bathroom”. Shrews are commonly mistaken for either mice or moles but are entirely different. There are similar qualities between mice and shrews but one could argue that shrews are more closer in relation to a mole.
Like moles, shrews are mostly insectivores and they have a ferocious appetite. This is due to their rapid metabolism which is similar to a moles. However, shrews are commonly mistaken for mice. This happens when shrews move into vacated nest sites that used to house mice. Since they will do the same with vacant mole burrows, shrews are commonly misidentified for both mice and moles. Watch this short video to see just what one looks like close up.
Shrews are found all over the world with over 30 species living in North America alone. They are among the worlds smallest mammals and can exist where it is very cold, rainy or arid. Furthermore, it has been hard to determine which species, if any, are regional or inclining or declining in population. This is due to the limited amount of research and data available. It is widely known that populations appear to be stable and cyclical. Since shrews can have 2-4 litters a year, they are not as prolific as rodents. However, their average life it longer and quite commonly exceeds two years in the wild. Most litters will have 2-10 young and it will take about one month for a female to birth the litter.
WHAT DO SHREWS EAT?
Shrews live primarily on insects. They will readily eat grasshoppers, wasps, crickets, snails and earthworms. However, they will also eat mice, small birds, snakes and slugs. Shrews will also feed on seeds around bird feeders, eggs in bird houses and all kinds of flowers, fruits, vegetables and plant bulbs. This type of feeding is why most people do not like them around the home. Since they have a fast metabolism, shrews will generally feed every few hours and don’t ever rest. Like moles, they can consume their body weight 2 or more times every day! This makes them a menace in and around homes.
Though shrews have a great sense of smell, they have poor vision. Certain species actually use echo location – more commonly used by bats – to navigate the terrain in which they live. Their sense of smell is probably what they use the most to move throughout their territory. Shrews have pungent smelling glands which are used to mark these territories as well as set up social order regarding colonies, courting and reproduction. In fact, this odor is another reason why shrews are not a welcome guest in the home.
Shrews love fish. In fact hatcheries are among their favorite places to feed as are private fish ponds, crayfish farms and just about any small body of water which harbors fish or other marine life. Around the home, shrews will find or create living areas close to bird feeders, pets and gardens. Since they will eat nuts, pet food and just about any type of fruit or vegetable, shrews can find plenty of food supplies around the average home. If the supply of food dwindles, they will forage into homes and start to pilfer pantries and other food storage areas.
SHREWS LOVE TO EAT MICE
Shrews will commonly follow mouse trails looking for a meal. Once inside the home, shrews will prey upon the mice they find and then live where the mice once lived. In a short period of time, their odor will become quite apparent. And even though shrews can navigate during the night, they are not truly nocturnal. Shrews will readily feed during the day and basically will become active as their dietary needs demand going about to feed whenever the local environment will best provide a meal.
WHAT ABOUT THAT HORRIBLE SHREW ODOR?
Shrews can be a pest to people many ways. As explained above, once inside the home, shrews will leave a strong pungent odor where they are active. It is quite easy to smell this outside in the yard too and it is NASTY! This smell is mostly used the same way a skunk uses it; to ward off would be predators.
People commonly ask what does a shrew smell like and the best way to describe it is to say it smells like skunk. Basically it’s a strong, pungent smell that comes from their anal glands. Shrews use this smell to mark territory, create scent trails (used to navigate into homes, around yards, etc.) communicate with other shrews and as a defense mechanism. Much like skunk smell, since it’s very strong, many animals will not eat a shrew once this foul smell is detected.
CAN A SHREW CAUSE PROPERTY DAMAGE?
Since Shrews like to feed on small birds and eggs – including both wild birds nesting as well as chicken eggs – they can be quite damaging to local bird populations. Many farmers experience a lot of damage which is hard to imagine something as small as a shrew could have caused. However, their rapid metabolism will cause them to feed more like an animal 3-5 times as large.
DO SHREWS BITE?
Shrews will bite and the Red toothed shrew is poisonous. This poison is used to render their food motionless while they eat their prey alive but if you try to handle a shrew, there is a good chance you’ll get bit. Remember, shrews have sharp piercing teeth which deliver their venom precisely and these teeth have been known to injure people so avoid handling them. Their venom is not fatal but it will cause a sore that will linger for many days.
HOW TO PREVENT A SHREW INFESTATION
If you think you have shrews active around the yard and don’t want them getting into your home, there are some things you can do.
INSTALL AN OWL HOUSE FOR NATURAL SHREW CONTROL
Another natural way to keep shrew populations in check is to help promote the welfare of local owls. These magnificent birds of prey are one of the few which will readily feed on shrews. Due to the shrews pungent odor, many prey animals and birds will ignore them. However, owls don’t seem to mind. Set out a BARN OWL house if you have some in your region. Such houses, when properly made and installed, have high occupancy rates. Once you have either species living in your offering, they will undoubtedly give something back to you by feeding on unwanted shrews, mice and rats. Owls are mostly nocturnal and cover a large area so try to make your house placement where it is dark and near the woods. This will insure they are both comfortable and able to find enough food for themselves and any offspring should they reproduce.
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SEAL ENTRY POINTS OF HOME WITH COPPER WOOL
Lastly, take some time to make sure your home is adequately rodent proof. Shrews, like mice and rats, are good climbers and will access homes from both low and high points. If you have shrew activity around your home, it is only a matter of time before some get inside if you have easy access points. Such locations are usually found where pipes enter the home, poorly sealed windows or doors as well as misfitted vents.
Take some time to seal all these areas and use materials that won’t break down easily. COPPER WOOL is a great way to quickly and effectively seal up such holes, cracks, gaps and voids. It’s easy to work with and won’t rot away like regular steel wool. Its made from copper so it will last a lifetime and SHREWS WILL NOT CHEW THROUGH IT.
WARNING: DO NOT SEAL ENTRY HOLES IF SHREWS ARE ALREADY IN THE HOME!! Once you have a local infestation, don’t do any closure till the problem is under control and no activity is detected present. Getting rid of shrews will take 1-2 weeks on average but ultimately will depend on just how many shrews are presently active and how many trapping devices you employ. Remember, the more traps installed, the faster you will be able to get the problem under control. However, we cannot over emphasize how important it is to NEVER seal holes until all activity has ceased. The main reason is simple: by knowing where they have been active you can then watch and monitor such locations as well as use them for making trap sets. In other words, holes and routes of entry are good to know and will prove to be helpful in getting any local population under control.
SIMPLE SHREW KILL TRAP
The first is the common Mouse Trap. However, don’t use any which are old or employ the metal trigger design. You will get much better results with the EXPANDED TRIGGER MOUSE TRAP. Place these along any wall, behind appliances or anywhere you are finding evidence of activity.
The most important thing to realize when using this type of trap is that you must make a set using a lure or bait that will be readily accepted by the local shrew population (see below for which bait to use).
In general, the more traps you employ the better. We recommend at least 6 traps but 20 is even better.
BEST BAIT FOR ALL SHREW TRAPS
Since shrews will feed on just about anything, it really helps when you are able to match the bait used in the trap to what the shrews are already finding in or around your property. There are several choices that could work and if you are not sure which to try, get as many as possible and use them all. This will always get results.
If you are finding fruits or vegetables in the garden or kitchen being attacked, use our LOGANBERRY PASTE. Shrews generally cannot ignore this fragrant attractant and can’t resist any offering of 1/2 teaspoon no matter where you place it.
If you have a lot of nuts on the property from trees or bird feeders, PECAN PASTE would be a better option.This stable, highly concentrated nut based paste will get them interested and allow them to find the trap from afar.
Since shrews like insects, another good option is our GRUB LURE. Remember, both insects and nuts are on the short “favorite list” for any shrews menu so either attractant will get good results if you’re not sure what they’re eating.
HOW TO BEST BAIT A SHREW TRAP
When using Expanded Trigger Mouse Traps, there are two things you need to accomplish for successful trapping.
First, use as many traps as possible. Though setting out 6 might seem like a lot, the use of 12-20 would even be better. The placement of these traps should be where you have either found holes, trails, damaged food in cabinets or pantries, droppings or where shrews have been seen or left a scent trail. Which ever lure you end up using, the next key is to use enough of it on the trap. To insure you do, you must coat the entire square trigger of the trap with the lure. Use your finger or cotton swab to smear the chosen lure all around the trigger of the trap making sure to get the bottom side of it covered.
Next, smear some underneath the trigger directly onto the wood of the trap. This will cause the wood to soak up the scent of the lure being used and make it that much more irresistible to any passing shrew. Once baited, make sets along walls and against solid objects. Remember, shrews don’t see well and need to have something solid along any trail or pathway they follow. This could be behind a couch, refrigerator, stove, back side of a cabinet or pantry, along a basement or garage wall, etc.
Lastly, make sure the trigger side of the trap is closest to the wall and not the side of the trap. In other words, make the set with the trigger up against the wall so no matter which side the shrew may approach from, it will encounter the trigger first and not the jaws of the trap. This will enable the trap to do it’s job even if the shrew just walks right in without seeing where it is walking. You won’t get the same results if you have the trap laid sideways along the wall so make sure this set is utilized. Be sure to inspect your traps at least once a day but not more then twice a day as this could get any local animals a little shy.
ELECTROCUTING SHREW TRAP
The second type of kill trap that works well for shrews is the ELECTRIC ZAPPER. These box like traps are very effective because they have wide open entrances which are comfortable for shrews to enter. Bait is placed at the back of the trap and in order for the shrew to reach the bait, it will have to step on the mid section of the device. Make sure you use one of the lures listed above and place a teaspoonful at the back of the device WITH THE DEVICE TURNED OFF AND THE BATTERIES OUT. This insures you won’t get “stung” by accidentally grounding yourself out.
Next, place a dab or two at the entrance way, around the edges, to help funnel target animals inside. Shrews that enter will meet their demise when they get to the mid section of the trap. It is at this point where a “ground out” pad will cause the trap to complete its circuit which is powered by batteries. When the circuit is complete, there is a small electric charge which will power through whatever causes the ground out. This charge is enough to kill mice, shrews and rats but can’t hurt animals which weigh 10 pounds or more.
Grounded animals will receive enough juice to die quickly and painlessly. Each trap has a light on top for easy monitoring so you will know when it is on and when it has gone off. Shrews which are killed in the trap will remain inside and will easily slide out for fast and easy removal. All you have to do next is turn the unit back off and back on again for reset. Electrocuting Devices are quick, easy and very effective for shrew control.
For outside use, protect your zapper with a TRAP TUBE. Designed to shield the sensitive electrical components of the zapper from the rain, Trap Tubes come in two colors so they will help camouflage your set. Basically the Zapper will fit inside comfortably and the tube can be set in green, lush areas well hidden using a green tube. For mulch areas with pine straw or wood chips, the brown tube will blend right in.
BEST SHREW LIVE TRAP
If you prefer not to kill any shrews, you can live trap existing populations. About the same size as the Electrocution Device, the LT3310 will last many years and is easy to deploy. Just set it where activity has been found and place any of the bait listed above in the back of the trap, behind the trip pad. Be sue to place small dabs at the entrance to help get the shrews headed inside.
Once trapped, you can either destroy or relocate the animal. Be sure to take any you intend on releasing at least one mile from your property to ensure they won’t return. If you release them on a wooded lot, there will surely be enough food for them to survive.
Live trapping is easy and can be done both inside and outside. Use the same locations for making a set as you would if you were using one of the kill traps listed above. Such areas should be along walls, in basements, in crawl spaces, behind appliances or along the foundation wall outside. Remember that like kill traps, the more you set out the faster you will be able to round up all the shrews which are active. In other words, trapping with just one trap will get you results but could take several weeks to remove all which are around your home and property. 2-3 traps working at the same time will provide much faster results as well as help to identify good locations for making sets. If you have 2-3 traps working at the same time and only one seems to be catching shrews, be sure to move the others close to the one which is working best. Pathways which are identified as being active should be targeted and sets should focus around them if you want to get fast results.
YOU MUST GET RID OF THAT NASTY SHREW ODOR!
Once you start removing shrews, you can then seal entry holes to ensure they won’t get back inside. Do this only after you are able to note at least a two week period with no activity in the home. At that point it will be safe to seal entry points. Use the Copper Steel Wool described above for small holes along with some caulk and hardware cloth where applicable.
Part of the exclusion process will be to deactivate their scent trails. Like many animals and insects, shrews leave very distinct odor trails where they travel. When you remove (trap out) the current population, the shrew scents on and around your home can remain active for 1-2 years. This odor is a kind of “calling card” which will attract more shrews to the scent trails. Once they arrive and start following the scent, they’ll want to get inside the home and your problem can start all over again.
Additionally, even if you did successfully close up all routes of entry, the lingering scent trail will be quite powerful many times serving as a “pot of gold” to any inquiring shrew. And this pot of gold will be so desirable that the new shrews will at least find your yard to use for nests. This will lead to more scent, pheromone and “nasty” shrew odors which in turn will lead to more shrews! Just one female shrew in heat can attract male shrews for years!
To prevent this from happening, you’ll need to spray the perimeter of the home, tunnels, entrances, mounds, nests and basically anywhere you saw shrews or can smell them with TOTAL ODOR NEUTRALIZER. This odor eliminating enzymatic action product will neutralize the organic scent left by shrews so there will be no clue a shrew ever visited your home.
Be sure to spray the entire foundation going up the sides of the home a good 4-6 feet as well as spraying the ground out from the foundation where ever needed. Expect to use 3-5 gallons of mixed material for this treatment. Though one application will usually do the job, a second treatment will not hurt. TON can be safely applied over grass, shrubs, etc. and won’t hurt plants or wildlife. It will work instantly too so odors will be gone within hours.
Add 4 oz per gallon of water and expect to get 400-800 sq/ft of coverage per mixed gallon.
TON can be applied using any standard PUMP SPRAYER.
GET RID OF SHREW ODOR IN THE HOME TOO!
Odors left inside the home need to be neutralized too. Besides being able to attract more shrews to the structure, shrew odor can be offensive. If you have areas that need disinfection due to the extreme pungent odor left by shrews, spray with the TON or wash down the area with a rag, sponge or mop.
Shrews are a hardy and persistent pest once they establish themselves on your property. If you have a natural landscape which is rich with nuts, seed, insects and wildlife, chances are high that shrews will like to live there as well. Once they move into the neighborhood, their feeding habits will have an immediate impact on all the local animals. If left unchecked, they will commonly move inside any home. Keep them out by doing extensive closure around the structure sealing off any entrance holes you find around pipes, windows, doorways, etc. Reduce infestations using either kill traps or live traps along with some of the special baits available. Deodorize scent trails and nest sites to ensure other shrews won’t find your home quite as easily.
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