Article and photos © Carol McDougall
Of 35 threatened mammals in Canada, the largest is the blue whale and the smallest is a Maritime shrew. If you saw a blue whale, it would likely be unmistakable but would you know a shrew if you saw one?
On Gabriola Island the endemic Vancouver Island Vagrant Shrew is an important part of the food cycle of owls and other birds of prey. It lives near wetlands, meadows and open woodlands and may decide to nest near your garden. My gardening neighbour found a nest near our plots in the Commons last May. We didn’t know what it was. Gabriola shrews are velvety grey to dark brown in colour and pale underneath but the nestlings are pale all over. Shrews are smaller than mice with pointed noses, tiny eyes and ears and long tails. They mainly eat animals without a backbone like slugs and snails and some plant matter. Shrews are a gardener’s friend – not a foe.