Virginia.gov

ashen masked shrew (Sorex cinereus cinereus)

Distribution Map

Distribution Map

Characteristics

This native shrew is a small grayish-brown insectivore, with a bicolored tail, that weighs approximately 3-6 grams and has an average length of 51-64 mm(31/2 - 41/2 inches) excluding the tail which is 31- 40mm (1-2 inches.) They have a long sharply pointed snout. The breeding season occurs from March-October (September) with 5-6 young per litter, and more than 1 litter per year. Some females may reach sexual maturity at ages from 4-5 months. The gestation period is 18-22 days and the young weigh about 0.01 ounce. The male is believed to assist in raising the litter.The life expectancy is no more than two years in the wild. This species is active both day and night. They may consume more than their own weight each day eating mostly ground dwelling insects, which they locate using a keen sense of smell and hearing. The nests are constructed of dry leaves or grasses, and found in stumps, under logs, or in piles of brush preferably in an area of moist soil. Soil moisture is a critical limiting factor in species distribution. This species is mainly preyed upon by owls, foxes, and weasels.

Distribution

This species is found in the western half of Virginia, all throughout the mountains. It is not picky about what habitat it prefers as long as the soil is moist. They have been found occupying bogs, swamps, upland hardwoods, and grasslands.

Foods

The primary foods consumed include: lepidopterous (butterfly/moth) larvae, slugs, Coleoptera (beetles), coleopterous larvae, unidentified insects, and spiders.

More Information

For more information, please visit the Virginia Fish & Wildlife Information Service (direct link to species booklet).