Shrews and Moles (Order: Insectivora)

Shrews (Soricidae Family)Vagrant Shrew; Photo courtesy of William Leonard © 2005 William Leonard

Because no sampling at Quail Ridge has focused on small mammals such as shrews, only one species has been documented. Three species may occur on the peninsula, and all are small (ca. 100 mm head plus body length (HBL)). The one confirmed species, Trowbridge’s shrew (Sorex trowbridgii), is a dull gray shrew, with the belly not significantly paler than the dorsum, and a relatively long (ca. 50-60 mm) and markedly bicolored tail. In contrast, both the Vagrant and Ornate shrews (S. vagrans and S. ornatus, respectively) are brownish or grayish-brown, lighter ventrally than dorsally, and have shorter tails (ca. 30-50 mm) that are not markedly bicolored. These latter two are very difficult to distinguish in the field, because it is necessary to look at dental characteristics; the pigment on the anterior surface of the upper incisor extends above the median tine in S. ornatus, but not in S. vagrans. Generally, however, Vagrant shrews are found in hills and montane regions of northern California, whereas Ornate shrews are the typical shrew of the Central Valley and southern coastal ranges (although they do extend north-westward to the area of Napa Valley and Pt. Reyes).

Moles (Talpidae Family)

Broad-footed mole (Scapanus latimanus). This mole may be found in meadows where the soil is soft and porous. Highly specialized fossorial (subterranean) mammals, moles are distinguished by having forelimbs broader than long, a slightly haired tail, and a blackish brown coat that appears silvery when smoothed. As adaptations to their subterranean habitat, they have no external ears, small eyes, and fur that lies readily in any direction. They feed on insects and earthworms. Molehills can be distinguished from those of pocket gophers; the former often is “cloddy” and lacks clear evidence of a plugged hole, whereas the latter consists of fine soil with a plugged hole near one side of the mound.

Species Accounts

Mammals Page

Photo Credits: Title, Mule Deer (Mike Benard),Vagrant Shrew (William Leonard). For more pictures see:


This page last updated: June 24, 2005  

Contact: Dr. Virginia Boucher
John Muir Institute of the Environment
109 The Barn, University of California, Davis, CA 95616
Phone: 530-752-6949; email:

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