Catalina Island Shrew: 1996 Almost-Extinct Tiny Mice Finally Found!

Nature

Efforts to find the feared-extinct Catalina Island Shrew finally paid off when a picture of the tiny animal was captured by a camera trap set by researchers in Southern California.

Biologists and conservationists have worked tirelessly for 15 years to find the tiny mouse-like animal after it was listed as a species of concern in 1996. Thousands of photographs have been taken by non -invasive camera traps set since 2016 when the search commenced.

“My first thought when we saw that image on the camera was that it is gratifying to see all of our hard work surrounding this species finally pay off – and thank goodness it’s not extinct. “Said biologist, Emily Hamblen.

The Catalina Island Shrew

Harvest Mice

(Photo : Belinda Fewings)

Currently, 385 species of shrews have been discovered, they belong to twenty-six genres and are one of the successful mammal species. Even though shrews have a striking resemblance to mice surprisingly, they are not rodents. Unlike rodents, they have teeth containing special glands that allow their venom to be injected into their prey. They have poor eyesight and a sharp hearing sense.

Shrews are found mainly in tropical areas of the world like parts of North America, South America, and Africa. The Catalina Island Shrew is a species evolving from an ancestor the ornate shrew. According to a Facebook post  by the Catalina Island Conservancy, only a total of thirty Catalina island shrews have been spotted since 1941 both dead and alive.

Catalina Island Shrews are tiny animals, mirroring the resemblance of a mouse with a characteristic long nose. Despite its petite nature, if approached aggressively, shrews can be territorial and violent, and their bites can cause pain and swelling that lasts for days. Some species can also be venomous.

They measure about 3.74 inches from the head to the tail and they weigh about 3.96 grams. They are more active during the night than day time. Due to their small size, they eat food consistently, have a high metabolic rate, and may not survive without eating for a long time. Their diet includes peanuts, insects, and worms.

“Generally, shrews need to eat every few hours, and some species of shrew eat up to two times their body weight each day,” said Emily Hamblen, one of the researchers. Their main predators include snakes, owls, and foxes.

Next Challenge: Hope For Spotting More Shrews?

Now that the Catalina Island Shrew has been sighted, the challenge at hand is to ensure their continued existence so they don’t go into extinction.

The Shrew is a small animal and eats frequently making it difficult to spy on them. It was so difficult that the conservationists rotated cameras mounted on 28 locations between February and May last year.

The researchers used 12 weeks to trap the cameras which produced 83,000 photographs. Despite this discovery, it could be a challenge to identifying more shrews on the island.

RELATED ARTICLE: Duck-billed Platypus Could Face Extinction Due to Drought

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