American Water Shrew

American Water Shrew

The American Water Shrew (Sorex palustris) or Northern Water Shrew, is a large North American shrew found in aquatic habitats. Some sources include the Glacier Bay Water Shrew, S. alaskanus, within this species.

This animal is dark grey in colour with lighter underparts with a long tail. Air bubbles are trapped in the thick fur when the animal dives underwater. Its feet have a fringe of hairs, more visible on the larger hind feet, which allow this animal to run on the water's surface. Its body is about 15 cm in length including an 8 cm long tail and it weighs about 13 g.

This animal is found near streams and lakes along the Rocky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains and across Canada and the midwestern United States.

It swims well and makes short dives in search of food. Its diet includes aquatic insects, small fish, tadpoles, slugs and snails. It is thought to use echolocation to help find prey. Predators include hawks, owls, snakes, mustelids and large fish.

This animal is active during the day but are more active at night. It is generally solitary and territorial except during mating. The female has 2 to 3 litters of 5 to 7 young in a nest in a tunnel or under a log. Water shrews typically live about 18 months.


The American water shrew has nine subspecies.

  • Sorex palustris albibarbis
  • Sorex palustris brooksi
  • Sorex palustris gloveralleni
  • Sorex palustris hydrobadistes
  • Sorex palustris labradorensis
  • Sorex palustris navigator
  • Sorex palustris palustris
  • Sorex palustris punctulatus
  • Sorex palustris turneri


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