Mammals of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Northern Short-tailed Shrew - Blarina brevicauda
Soricidae Members:
Search Common:                 Search Scientific:

Photo by: Jim Petranka
Distribution In NC, it ranges over essentially the entire state, with several subspecies present. Two occur primarily in the mountains and the western part of the Piedmont, and the other primarily in the Coastal Plain. There are old records from the remainder of the Piedmont, likely not assigned to subspecies. There has been much difficulty of separation of short-tailed shrews in much of the state just to full species -- Northern (Blarina brevicauda) versus Southern (B. carolinensis) -- and thus identification of many shrews is perhaps not prudent, especially by sight and even with photographs (such as those uploaded to the iNaturalist website).

Occurs over southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States, south to OK and GA.
Abundance Abundant in the mountains, but much less numerous in the western Piedmont, though perhaps common there. Probably uncommon in the Coastal Plain and the eastern and central Piedmont, where the Southern is also present, but might be locally common in parts of the Coastal Plain, even in southern counties. Appears to be least numerous in the eastern two-thirds of the Piedmont, especially as there are relatively few specimens, in particular in recent decades, from this large region. Note that though there are a moderate number of NC photos, identified to this species, on the iNaturalist website -- all from the mountains and western Piedmont -- the editors cannot reliably verify such reports owing to the extremely similar Southern Short-tailed Shrew, whose range overlaps most of that of the Northern in NC.
Seasonal Occurrence Occurs year-round.
Habitat Favors forests and woodlands, of various types, but also found in various brushy areas, fields, and even in salt marshes. Leaf litter is preferred in the habitat, and thus most often found in deciduous or mixed forests. The coastal race is found in a variety of wetland habitats, especially swampy places with much leaf litter.
See also Habitat Account for General Mixed Habitats
Behavior Active by day and night, though more often at night. Spends most of its time burrowing under leaf litter.
Comments This is one of the most abundant mammals in the state, at least within the mountains. The coastal subspecies was formerly considered as a separate species, but it seems odd that it is assigned to the Northern Short-tailed Shrew instead of the Southern. This subspecies is possibly not found at the same place as is the Southern, even though the ranges overlap. Thomas French, in a paper published in Brimleyana, found specimens of Northern Short-tailed Shrew eastward in the Piedmont only to Rockingham and Forsyth counties; on the other hand, he noted that specimens of shrews west to Randolph and Cabarrus were Southerns. Thus, the many counties in the eastern half of the Piedmont reported in Lee et al. (1982), as shown in blue on the map, might in actuality be Southern Short-tailed Shrews, and not Northerns. Because of this confusion of shrews just to the full species level, use of the subspecies for segregating Northerns in NC is indeed problematic.
Origin Native
NC List Official
State Rank S5
State Status
Global Rank G5
Federal Status
subspecies Blarina brevicauda churchi, Blarina brevicauda kirtlandi, Blarina brevicauda telmalestes

Blarina b. churchi and B. b. kirtlandi are found in the mountains and Piedmont, with churchi supposedly in the higher mountains and kirtlandi in the lower mountains and Piedmont. However, the exact ranges of these in NC is unsettled. B. b. telmalestes occurs (apparently) throughout the Coastal Plain, to the SC state line.
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all database records for species in that county.