For the last week or two and with regularity, we've been finding these little critters inside the house (prominently deposited on a rug) or outside on the deck(s) or walkway(s). Each time, though, they are untouched (oh, and dead). We know they are "gifts" from the cats (now just Annie Blue), but we didn't know what they were . . . nor why there were untouched and not eaten.
A little research in 'Mammals of Minnesota' (one in the series of many useful & easy-to-read field guides by Stan Tekiela) identified the little guy, and here are some interesting facts:
- Weighing in at just 1/4 of an ounce and spending the majority of its life in tunnels underground, this shrew is "rarely, if ever, seen". (Lucky for us, then, that the cats have been leaving them for us in plain sight!)
- They don't hibernate - they are active underneath the snow in the wintertime.
- It's also called the Cinereus Shrew, and it's one of the smallest mammals in Minnesota. Cinereus means 'ash-colored' in Latin.
- Explanations for why we find them unscathed seem to be two-fold: they give off a "strong musky odor [although we've never noticed this] which makes it unattractive" to predatory mammals (i.e, cats). AND, they can "die from fright when captured"! Given the number of them that have been left for us, they must be fun for the cat(s) to hunt!
- And, finally, they are "a desirable animal to have around your home and yard" - killing mice and eating many harmful insects (like . . . ?). They do not transmit rabies and are not harmful to humans!