Avalon Harbor Report December 2020
AVALON—For the first time since 2004, researchers have observed a live Catalina Island Shrew, a small mammal that weighs the same as about four paperclips. The Catalina Island Shrew was listed as a Species of Special Concern in 1996 by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Conservancy Wildlife Biologist Emily Hamblen said three other major research efforts have attempted to document the endemic species since 2016 to no avail, despite more than 200,000 photos reviewed and 1,500 camera trap nights.
“We have been looking for the Catalina Island Shrew for years,” Hamblen said in a released statement. “I thought, and really hoped, that they still existed somewhere on the Island. Animals are incredibly resilient, and it is amazing to see that they are still here.”
Conservancy biologists found the shrew during an extensive remote camera research effort that took place between February and May 2020. The Conservancy deployed and rotated seven remote camera traps specifically to detect small mammals at 28 locations. The cameras were purchased in 2016 thanks to a donation from the Harold McAlister Charitable Foundation.
The remote cameras were placed pointing down inside upside-down 5-gallon buckets. Bait was placed in the center of the buckets, with four small entrances cut into the trap. More than 83,000 photos were collected through about 12 weeks of trapping. To date, only a few thousand photos have been reviewed.
An adult shrew measures approximately 3.74 inches, including their tail, which makes up about a third of their total length, and weighs just 3.96 grams, equal to about four paperclips. The shrew’s high metabolism means that the insectivores can only survive between five and 23 hours without feeding.
“This makes them challenging to capture safely because they need to eat so frequently,” Hamblen said in a released statement. “Remote camera traps are a noninvasive survey method allowing us to collect data without disturbing the animal.”
Now that the shrew has been spotted once again, the Conservancy plans to continue efforts to encourage their survival.
“Our next step is to figure out the island-wide distribution and if they seem to prefer specific habitats, based on the locations where they have been observed,” said Hamblen. “Then, we can work to promote the health of those types of habitats and reduce risks to their survival.”
For more information about Catalina Island Conservancy’s conservation programs, visit CatalinaConservancy.org.