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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Going for shrew and bagging shrew

A chance encounter between two Trowbridge shrews (tentative id) 

Humbolt County, April 2013:

Question: Why don't camera trappers photograph more shrews?

Answer:  They aren't looking for schtinkin' shrews, because they aren't interested in shrews.

Who cares about little tiny ferocious mammals that eat 1.5 times their own weight a day in insects, spiders, centipedes, and worms?

Shrews may be one of the most abundant predators in woodland habitats, but it's their small size that makes them hard to photograph.

Camera trappers focus on the larger animals they know, and when camera traps are set for larger species shrews are usually undetectable.

Shrews live in a different time-space continuum, and I've photographed only a few by mistake.

They are usually a speck in the overall image, often partially hidden in leaf litter, and they are hard to identify. That's why most good pictures of shrews are nature-faked.

But they are intriguing subjects, and a few months ago I set a camera specifically for shrews.

I knew it might be a waste of time, but I staked the camera close to a rotting redwood log, and clawed away the surface litter, thinking the disturbance might attract a hungry shrew.

The batteries lasted 70 days, and there were 83 photos.

But only three pictures were of animals, and as far as I can tell, all were Trowbridge shrews with bald tails [yes, older shrews can lose their bicolored tail pattern to baldness].

The surprise was a pair of shrews having an altercation.

Going for shrew and bagging shrew may have been a stroke of good luck.

I'll have to repeat the exercise several more times to convince myself that I really know how to hunt shrew.


Henry said...

WOW! You are the Shrew master! Two shrews in one photo, that is amazing! Most of the shrews I photograph (and there aren't many) are just 'n grey blur on the Bushnell Trophy Cams, making IDing them almost impossible.
Camera trapping small mammals are great :)

JK said...

Shrew fight?

Awesome captures Codge

John Van Niel said...

Excellent! Can you provide any details about the camera set you used for this? I assume that is a home brew, so details on that would be great. Also, has anyone out there had experience photographing shrews with a Reconyx?

Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks guys. John, it was my usual Sony s600 with a YetiCam controller.

Amazingly Average said...

I know you responded to John, but I would also be interested in more detail. I've been camera trapping at home as a hobby with my daughter. We have camera trapped 14 different species with many more to go. I find smaller animals hard to capture nicely unless you get REALLY close. Do you set specific settings on your Sony to favor smaller animals?

Amazingly Average said...

I know you responded to John, but I would be interested in more detail too. I have been camera trapping at home with my 6 year old daughter. We've captured 14 different species so far, but we find smaller animals hard unless we get REALLY close. Are you setting specific settings on your Sony for smaller animals?

Camera Trap Codger said...

AA, I measure the distance to the subject and set the camera a little farther back than the minimal distance, which is ~16" in the Sony s600. I also reduce the flash power to low. Sounds like you are having fun.