Monday, December 03, 2007

What the Cat Dragged In

There was something dead here in the office. I thought I caught a whiff of death yesterday but today when I got home and opened the door to the office, the smell had developed a fully formed presence.

I was certain that it was a bird because a few feathers showed up under the desk last week. I looked and looked for the bird's body, but couldn't find it. Then I though maybe the feathers were from that bird a few weeks ago and had just been stuck behind the curtains and I stopped looking.

The search began again this afternoon. There WAS something dead in this office and it needed to be found and disposed of. In the past, I've found dessicated small animals in odd places like in an old file that was kept on the bottom shelf. I found today's body eventually. It was in the big plastic bucket that we keep photographs in, wedged in between framed photographs, a dead water shrew. The water shrew is a rare British mammal. It's even rarer now.
Owning a cat has helped me to become an expert at identifying small mammals. I can tell the difference between the death shriek of a field vole and that of a mouse. The field vole's squeak has a higher pitch than that of a vole. I learned to identify the pygmy shrew very early on. The pygmy shrew is very small (naturally) has a light brown colour and a toxic little bite. The common shrew is the same colour as a pygmy shrew but a bit bigger.

The shew I found today was different. Its sharp little nose identified it straight away as a shew, but it was bigger than common shews, it was the size of an average mouse. It also has very dark almost black fur with a cream coloured belly and chin. I'd never seen a two toned shrew before. If it hadn't been dead and very smelly, I would have looked at it a lot closer. Naturally I had to look it up. I identified it positively as the water shew.

I find this sort of thing interesting but depressing. I hate it when the cat kills migratory birds like the far travelling swallow and protected species like the water shrew. I put a bell on the cat when he was still a kitten, a really jingly one. I hope it has helped. Sadly, it didn't help that water shrew.

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