Shrew-mole

After a week of twelve hour days, getting everything set for the first day of Sunday school, I was ready for a break. When Carol suggested we go for a late-afternoon walk at Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, I was ready to go.

About an hour into our walk, Carol pointed down at the ground. “What’s that?” It was a small animal, dead. A mouse? No, a closer look revealed it was a mole. I turned it over carefully. There was a bit of a flat place where it had been lying; presumably decomposition was beginning. But you could still see the general shape of the animal. I admired it for a while then made a sketch, slightly smaller than the actual size of 110 mm total length, which I refined once we got home:

Shrew-mole, Neurotrichus gibbsii

Of the two species of mole which inhabit our area, it was clearly a Shrew-mole (Neurotrichus gibbsii). According to Jameson and Peeters, in Mammals of California, we humans don’t really know what this species eats, or how it reproduces: “The Shrew-mole seems to feed indiscriminately on a board spectrum of soil-dwelling insects, pill-bugs, and centipedes”; it “appears to breed in late winter”; and “little is known of its reproductive habits” (my emphases). Another organism to which we humans live in close proximity, but about which we know little.

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