National Geographic : 1918 May
SMALLER MAMMALS OF NORTH AMERICA 487 runways of the field mice or other small animals and make little runs of their own only where necessary. Aside from a faint squeak, I have never heard them utter a sound, but other observers credit them with series of fine twittering notes ap parently uttered as a song. The common shrew is a solitary animal of so morose a disposition that if two are placed in a cage to gether they almost immediately fall upon one another with tooth and nail, and the victor devours the body of its companion at a single meal. The digestion of shrews is so rapid and the call for food so incessant that it requires constant activity to keep the demand satisfied. After the winter, snow arrived in the North I found many tunnels of these shrews running just under its surface and raising it a little in a slight but distinctly rounded ridge. Such tunnels wandered widely and on the ice of the Yukon River I traced one of them more than a mile and repeatedly saw them crossing the river from bank to bank. It was sur prising to note the ability of the little travelers under the surface to keep in so nearly a direct line for long dis tances. At times these little adventurers make similar tunnels in the snow far out on the sea ice. The mythology of the Eskimos contains accounts of many supernatural animals which a * ' lone hunter may meet and which have the power to do him deadly harm. Among these the "sea shiew" is one of the most malignant. , Its appearance is described as exacty like that of the common land shrew, but it is said to live on the ice at sea, and if it sees a hunter to dart at him through the air, pierce the skin, and, after running all through the body with incredible rapidity, to enter the man's heart and kill him. In con sequence of this belief the Eskimo i hunters were in mortal terror if they chanced to encounter a stray shrew on the sea ice. I knew one hunter who suddenly meeting one on the ice stood motionless for hours until the shrew wandered out of sight. He then hastened home and all the other ~ hunters agreed he had had a lucky escape. THE SHORT-TAILED SHREW (Blarina birevicauda and its relatives) (For illustration, see page 464) THE TRAIL OF THE COMMON SKUNK Several groups of species or genera The hind foot of the skunk rarely shows the claws of the little mouselike animals known in the track. The diagonal set during the gallop is char as shrews are peculiar to North acteristic (see pages 456 and 477).