Atlas der Säugetiere Nordrhein-Westfalens
AG Säugetierkunde in NRW
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With a head-and-body length of 8 cm and a tail length of over 6 cm, the Eurasian Water Shrew is the largest European shrew. Its dorsal fur is black and the belly usually white but can show a grey or reddish tinge. As the name already indicates, the species is tied to standing or moving waters. Only animals searching for their own territory can be sometimes found away from water.
The animals feed on insect larvae, worms and snails but also small fishes and amphibians, which they frequently capture while diving. Every day, an animal needs more food than its own body weight, in which an adult animals lies between 15 and 20 g. As an adaptation to their habitat, the species displays a few physical specialties: the hindfeet are proportionally very large, and their outer edge is supplied with a fringe of stiff hairs, just like the underside of the tail to insure a better swimming ability with this surface enlargement. When the animals dive, they get hardly wet; they are surrounded by a silverish coat of air. Along well-structured riverine sections of flowing water bodies, a riparian section of 20-24 m length is sufficient for the habitat of one individual. Together with the Mediterranean Water Shrew, which also occurs in NRW, the Eurasian Water Shrew belongs to the few poisonous mammals worldwide. Glands located under the tongue produce a poison, which can kill small vertebrates within a few minutes. Poisonings in humans are unknown on one hand because the animals are not able to penetrate the human skin with their small teeth, and on the other hand because the available amount of poison is too small.
The Eurasian Water Shrew is threatened in its habitat by water works and the wastewater discharge. Likewise, population decline is expected as a consequence of the use of biocides in agriculture because they reduce the food supply of the Eurasian Water Shrew.
The occurrence of the Water Shrew can be expected in suitable habitats in all of NRW. On the basis of the topographic sheet quadrants, the whole federal state should be populated. There are no records for many quadrants, which can be explained in that the animals live very secretively and are thus hard to observe; also because their share in owl pellet series is quite low (in Westphalia between 0.1 and 6.6%).
Meinig H (2023): Wasserspitzmaus (Neomys fodiens).In: AG Säugetierkunde NRW — Online-Atlas of the mammals of North Rhine-Westphalia. Downloaded from saeugeratlas-nrw.lwl.org on 2023/03/26