INFORUM.com | WDAZ.com

WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 28, 2012, 10:01 AM

Dickinson State University team finds rare shrew a second time

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — For the second time in two years, a Dickinson State University research team has found a rare shrew that previously had not been documented in North Dakota for more than century.

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — For the second time in two years, a Dickinson State University research team has found a rare shrew that previously had not been documented in North Dakota for more than century.

The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History confirmed that the tiny critter found this summer was a Merriam's shrew. The Smithsonian also confirmed the shrew found last year, The Dickinson Press reported.

"It's just that it's not a very common species," said Neal Woodman, a research zoologist and curator of mammals with the U.S. Geological Survey stationed at the Smithsonian. "It's not very often found and it's just relatively rare, at least in terms of human knowledge of it. It's a small animal, and it's not something that people encounter a lot."

Dickinson State biology professor Michael Shaughnessy said the Merriam's shrew is not endangered and has a wide range throughout the western United States, but it previously was known in North Dakota only by a specimen collected in 1913.

Shrews are so small they can be hard to see, Shaughnessy said. They weigh from 1.5 to 5 grams.

"They'll sit on the end of your finger, they're so small, he said.

Shaughnessy led the student research project to track small non-game mammals in western North Dakota and map prairie dog towns.

"We did two weeks of sampling on prairie dog towns each summer and we caught a number of small mammals," Shaughnessy said. "We caught two other species of shrew, we caught several species of rodent, a couple of things that haven't been detected here in a while, but aren't quite as rare in North Dakota as Merriam's shrew."

The project was funded by the state Game and Fish Department.

Tags: