When I think about venomous animals in Minnesota, I think of snakes. I never thought of any mammal as being venomous. But we do have one venomous mammal here in Minnesota.

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According to the DNR, Minnesota is home to the Northern Short-Tailed Shrew, which has venomous saliva. The venom is to help them stun their insect prey, but people have been bitten by them, and will often experience swelling and itching, sort of like getting stung by a bee.

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Shrews are NOT considered a rodent, contrary to popular belief. They are quite different. They have long pointy noses, and five toes on all of their feet, whereas mice only have four toes on their front feet. They have beautiful, velvety fur, and little black eyes.

Shrews are also very smelly animals, so if you run across one, you probably will think something is wrong. The smell is a defense mechanism that makes them taste bad to keep predators away.

Shrews have had heartbeats recorded at 1200 beats per minute! That means they have a very fast metabolism, so they are constantly eating. Pretty much, that is their goal in life. Eat...Eat...Eat.

They love to eat things like insects and worms, but they will eat small mammals. They have very tiny, sharp teeth that help them bite into and tear apart their prey. If you see a Shrew, don't bother it. It's going to get rid of a lot of bugs and small critters you don't want running around your yard.


Shrews are actually the smallest of all Minnesota mammals. The Pygmy shrew is only about two inches long, and weighs only 1/8th of an ounce!  Other shrews like the Short-Tail Shrew, the largest of Minnesota's shrews, weigh only 3/4 of an ounce. The Masked Shrew is another shrew that lives in Minnesota and is the most common type of shrew. The Northern Water Shrew is considered large in size, weighing about one-half ounce, and measuring six inches in length. When it swims, it appears to be running over the water. How cute! or creepy, depending on how you feel about small animals running across water.


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