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Elusive Catalina Island Shrew spotted for 1st time in years

January 6, 2021 GMT

AVALON, Calif. (AP) — A tiny mouse-like animal has been spotted on Santa Catalina Island off Southern California for the first time since 2004, showing that the species is not extinct.

A Catalina Island Shrew was spotted in a photograph taken by a remote “camera trap” during a major effort to detect the diminutive animal early last year, the Catalina Island Conservancy said Wednesday.

“We have been looking for the Catalina Island Shrew for years,” said conservancy wildlife biologist Emily Hamblen said in a statement. “I thought, and really hoped, that they still existed somewhere on the Island.”

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The Catalina Island Shrew was listed as a species of special concern by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in 1996.

An adult shrew is just 3.74 inches (95 millimeters) long, including tail, and they weigh about 3.96 grams (0.14 ounce). According to the conservancy, shrews have such a high metabolism they can’t survive long without eating.

To try to spy a shrew, the conservancy rotated seven camera traps among 28 locations on the island between February and May 2020.

Each trap was an upside bucket with a camera pointing down, bait in the center and four small openings.

The 12 weeks of trapping produced more than 83,000 photographs and only a few thousand have been reviewed so far.

The conservancy says the next step is to determine how to promote the survival of the species.