Dumb Animals

We had a strange animal event Friday night/Saturday morning. The basement windows are small and high on the wall, with wells outside. We put plastic covers over the window wells, but every now and then a critter of some sort makes its way into the well. I’ll usually lift the cover and put a piece of 2×4 in so it can crawl out. (This always happens at 11:00 at night, by the way.) Friday night I heard scratching and squeaking, so I went into the laundry room and saw Buttercup staring intently at the window. I flipped the light on to see what kind of critter we were dealing with and discovered a small mole-like animal. (After looking it up today, I think it was a northern short-tailed shrew.)

Somehow this poor critter had found a way between the screen and the window! It’s a tiny space, maybe 1/4″ wide, although the screen gives a little. It was scooting around like a little mime. I took a carpet knife outside and cut a big 3 corner tear in the screen so it could get out. When I lifted the window well cover there was a horrible stench – I had a bad feeling, but didn’t see anything in the dark. It crawled way up in the corner of the window to get away from me, so I went inside to let it calm down enough to escape. Ten minutes later, I heard more squeaking. It was still there, and now a second, smaller shrew had crawled in the tear and was nosing at it, squeaking and chirping. The first one wouldn’t budge, other than to flinch back from the new one. I watched for a while, then decided the first had wedged itself up so far in the corner that, with it’s paws against the window instead of the screen, it couldn’t get itself out.

Shrew 3

Back outside with the carpet knife I went, and slashed the screen from top to bottom. The shrew fell down to the bottom, still inside the screen. Inside again, the smaller shrew kept going in and out of the screen, goading the larger one so it crawled all around, but it seemed to be avoiding the gaping hole in the screen.

I left them be for a while, and when I went back the larger one was out, but the smaller one was still crawling in and out of the screen, around the window well, back and forth – and always avoiding the wooden ramp I had put in. I tried to catch it with a plastic dustpan on a stick, but it was quick, and disappeared into the rocks at the bottom of the well. The next morning it was still there, back in the screen. Our neighbor came over and was eventually able to get it out. He took it down to the flower bed away from the house and released it. There was no sign of the other one, but he did find four dead babies, which he cleaned up for us. Apparently they’d been in there quite a while.



  1. ok…two things..
    1. I wouldn’t know where a carpet knife was at 11pm…
    2. There is NO WAY I would get close enough to video tape those guys…

    • I know – I wasn’t too thrilled with them, either, but the alternative was to leave it there, trapped between the screen and the window, and then have to deal with a DEAD critter. That bothered me even more. Fortunately, when I was recording them I was on the window side, so there was no way they were going to “get” me. I did read a bit about shrews this morning – apparently they are voracious and can eat three times their body weight in a day! They also will kill – and eat – each other. I just hope the big one made it out, and wasn’t supper.

  2. Wow, who knew shrews were so LOUD? I’ve seen a few but never actually heard them; thanks for the video. Sometimes I think it would be better to live in an urban setting, with fewer beasties, but I prefer rural noise to human noise. And there’s always an adventure to be had! And I second Nancy Lee, kudos to you for knowing where to find your tools when they were most needed! Now to repair the screen …

  3. Eek! That gives me the willies! They sound like the aliens from that Mel Gibson movie — Signs? I think.

    too bad about the dead ones, but thank goodness for good neighbors!

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