I named yesterday’s post, “The Killing of the Shrew” because “shrew” made think of Shakespeare’s play, “The Taming of the Shrew.” Last night I asked EJ if he knew why a “shrew” is a description of “a bad-tempered or aggressively assertive woman.” Are the mouse-like shrews “bad tempered”? “Aggressively assertive”? Curious, because I don’t know that much about shrews, I started looking up more information about them. I discovered that Michigan has about four different kinds: the masked shrew, the water shrew (one of the few mammals in Michigan that live exclusively in wetland habitats), the pygmy shrew, and the northern short tail shrew. I’m quite sure that the one Madeline killed yesterday is a northern short tail shrew. I was not really surprised to learn that shrews have poor vision. I was quite surprised to learn that they move about with echo-location like bats and whales. I was extremely surprised to learn that some shrews, including the northern short tail shrew, is venomous. That’s right: venomous. Apparently their saliva is toxic and is strong enough to kill small animals. It’s secreted through grooves in their incisors. The shews don’t inject their prey like snakes or spiders do. Instead, they chew the venom into their prey until the prey is subdued. If they bite a human, their toxins can cause pain that lasts for several days, but bites are rare; they usually occur when someone tries to handle one.
Fortunately, Northern short-tailed shrews have many predators. They are preyed upon by snakes, cats, skunks, raccoons, opossums, owls, hawks, weasels, red fox, coyotes, and occasionally pickerel, trout, and sunfish when they venture near water. Northern short-tailed shrews are aggressive, and they threaten and physically drive away any intruders. They escape predation by remaining hidden in the cover of vegetation or under the soil or snow during foraging expeditions from their nest. They may also make themselves distasteful by exuding a musky odor from glands on their belly and sides. Many mammal predators may refuse to eat northern short-tailed shrews because of their foul taste.
After reading about the aggressive and venomous shrew last night, I became concerned about Madeline. I imagined her in pain or paralyzed by a bite. So I went out to check on her before I headed to bed. She ran up to me as soon as I entered our garage. She didn’t seem to be in any distress or pain. In fact, she acted completely normal. Apparently, the shrew didn’t chew on her. I told her to be careful around those shrews. I can’t believe we have such creatures here. Next someone will be telling me that Big Foot or the Dogman are real.
This morning before it was fully light outside, I looked out the window and saw Madeline hunting something on the other side of the duck pen. She was dashing here and there and occasionally leaping. I didn’t find any dead bodies in the garage today so either her prey escaped or she left the body outside.
Meanwhile, the four inside cats gathered as usual in anticipation of getting their morning treat of canned food. They always remind me of little panthers. HUNGRY little panthers. I love black cats.
The weather was very nice today so I walked down the hill and used a yellow paint pen to outline the red letters on my sign. The red wasn’t showing up very well but I think the outlining really makes the letters stand out. They look better than in the photo. Although it’s not absolutely necessary, I thought I’d outline the yellow letters as well. I would like to do them in red, but I don’t have a red paint pen and I don’t know when I’ll get to Joann’s Fabrics again. I have to get the sign done before cold weather hits, which could happen at any time. I couldn’t decide which of the colors I already own to use–green, orange, or black–so I did a few tests and I decided to outline the letters in the orange pen. I could always paint over the orange with red at a later date if I want. I hope to do it tomorrow.
After I finished working on the sign, I walked back up the hill, admiring the beautiful blue sky. I noticed two birds soaring overhead and clearly saw their white heads and tail feathers: Bald Eagles! They were near the sun, which blinded me so that I wasn’t able to see them in my camera’s view finder. Oh, well. I’m thrilled I got to see them!