Shrew plague

Over the last few months, I’ve heard a few people complaining that they’ve never seen a shrew in the wild. I couldn’t really help them, because I don’t know any places where seeing a shrew during a short visit would be guaranteed.

Well, right now there seems to be a shrew population explosion on the E side of Hatcher Pass, Alaska. I just spent 6 hours there (starting at midnight) and saw 12 shrews, including a pair fighting and chasing each other. A few of them could be observed running around for 10-20 min. The best place is a steep sandy roadside slope about 100 m past the sign “Entering Summit Lake State Recreation Area” (driving E to W).

This was only a second time that I’ve observed such a multi-species shrew “plague”. The first one was on Nyiragongo Volcano in 1995.

The road to the pass is officially closed, but the gate is often open, and in any case it’s only a 1 mile walk from the gate. The opening date is July 4; I don’t know if increased traffic will have any effect.

Look also for collared pikas on talus patches there, and for brown lemmings in boggy streamside meadows.


UPD: looking at the photos, there are clearly three species present. I think the larger ones with light flanks were tundra shrews, the smaller light-colored ones were montane shrews (the most common), and the single dark at the beginning of the pass road was a masked shrew.


Leave a Reply