|The European water shrew is a semi aquatic animal
and is one of the largest of all shrews. It spends its time swimming and hunting
for food in streams and rivers. The water shrew lives near slow flowing,
clear rivers and streams., It swims and dives well but seldom ventures far
from the bank. The shrew is a solitary and territorial animal, but occasionally
it lives in family groups.
Food & Feeding: The water shrew regularly leaves its nest for short periods throughout the day to forage. It mainly eats crustaceans and other aquatic animals such as whirligig beetles and water gnats. It also catches larger prey like frogs and small fish. On land the water shrew uses its good sense of smell to hunt for earthworms and insects. In water it searches along the bottoms of streams and rivers. It looks for prey under stones and among weeds in much the same way it does on land. Once the shrew has caught its prey, it rises quickly to the surface. The water shrew has sharp, pointed teeth, which allow it to overpower prey that is considerably larger than itself. A water shrew eats more then it own weight in food every day and hoards food when it is plentiful. A shrew can dive toward the bottom of the river, and eats bullhead fish.
Habits: Although it sometimes lives in family groups, the water shrew is mainly solitary and occupies its own territory. It builds a nest in an existing hole in a riverbank or it digs a tunnel. The shrew lines the nest with grass, roots, and moss. The shrew alternates between activity and rest both day and night. It comes onshore at frequent intervals to dry off by squeezing through the narrow passageways of its tunnels to rid it fur of moisture. It them grooms itself.
Breeding: The shrews mating season is from April to September. If the male approaches a female that is not ready to mate, they often fight instead. During mating, the male behaves aggressively, which might trigger the female to ovulate (produce eggs). The female often mates again soon after giving birth. Three to eight young are born in the nesting chamber. The female may bear two to three litters a year. The young are naked and blind at birth and they weigh only a fraction of an ounce. They grow quickly and are weaned and are weaned after four weeks, when they are ready to leave the nest.
Nature watch: Despite their wide range and constant activity, shrews are very difficult to spot. The best places to keep watch are near the banks of slow moving and clear, shallow streams and rivers. Shrill squeaks coming from the grass near the water's edge indicate that the water shrews are fighting among themselves to defend their territories.
Key Facts: Sizes:
Length: 5 in. including tail.
Related Species: There is only one other species in this genus, Neomys anomalus. There are 246 different species in the family Soricidae.
Distribution: Throughout most of Europe and Asia. Found at all altitudes.
Conservation's: The shrew is sometimes considered a pest because it eats the spawn of valuable fish stocks. Pollution and draining of waterways and wetlands threaten its habitat in same areas.
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