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First Records of the Smoky Shrew (Sorex fumeus) in Alabama
Zachary Felix1,2,*, Lisa J. Gatens3, Yong Wang1, and Callie J. Schweitzer4
Abstract - Conserving biodiversity in the southeastern United States begins with documenting
the distribution and natural history of all taxa. Using pitfall traps between March 2005 and
January 2006, we collected the first Sorex fumeus (Smoky Shrew) specimens (44) from Alabama
on the Cumberland Plateau in the northeastern portion of the state. Body size of specimens
was generally smaller than reported for other populations. We recommend additional surveys
throughout the Cumberland Plateau region in Alabama to better document this species’ range
in the state.
The southern terminus of the Appalachian Mountains, including the Cumberland
Plateau, is noted for its high levels of biodiversity (Odum 2002). Considering the
alarming rate at which biodiversity is currently being lost at local scales in this region
(Chaplin et al. 2000, Wear et al. 2004), it is critical to document the distribution of
various taxa. Small insectivorous mammals, including members of the genus Sorex,
are important components of many ecosystems such as those found in the Southern
Appalachians (Ford et al. 2006, Van Zyll de Jong 1983).
Herein we report on the presence of Sorex fumeus Miller (Smoky Shrew) in Jackson
County, northeastern Alabama. This area was classed into the Cliff Section of
the Cumberland Plateau in the Mixed Mesophytic Forest region by Braun (1950) and
the Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Oceanic) Province and Northern Cumberland Plateau
Section by Bailey et al. (1994). The area is characterized by steep slopes dissecting
the Plateau surface and draining to the Tennessee River. Soils are shallow to deep,
stony and gravelly loam or clay, and well-drained (Smalley 1982). Climate of the
region was temperate with mild winters and moderately hot summers with a mean
temperature of 13 °C and mean precipitation of 149 cm (Smalley 1982). Concurrent
with a study examining silvicultural impacts to wildlife (Felix et al. 2008, Wang et
al. 2006), we trapped shrews at 2 separate sites. One site was located on a south,
southwest-facing slope of Miller Mountain (34°58'11"N, 86° 12'21"W), with elevations
ranging from 457–518 m. The second site was located on a north-facing slope
at Jack Gap (34°56'30"N, 86°04'00"W), with elevations ranging from 304–475 m.
Dominant overstory tree species at both sites were oaks, including Quercus velutina
Lamarck (Black Oak), Q. rubra L. (Northern Red Oak), Q. alba L. (White Oak), and
Q. prinus L. (Chestnut Oak), with lesser amounts of hickories (Carya spp.), Acer
saccharum Marsh. (Sugar Maple), and Liriodendron tulipifera L. (Yellow Poplar).
Common understory species included Cornus fl orida L. (Flowering Dogwood), Cercis
canadensis L. (Eastern Redbud), and Oxydendrum arboreum L. (Sourwood).
We captured small mammals in three 20-ha blocks; two of these blocks were
located at Jack Gap, and one was located at Miller Mountain. Within each block, we
established a total of fifteen 15-m long drift fences (spaced ≥50 m apart), each with
a 19-L pitfall trap at each end. Pitfalls were opened each month between March and
August, and again in October and November of 2005 and January of 2006. Collected
shrews were deposited in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCSM).
We captured 44 Smoky Shrews over a total of 3210 pitfall nights. Of these, 13
were males, 24 were females, and 7 were of unknown sex. Other species of small
mammals that we captured included Blarina brevicauda Say (Northern Short-tailed
Shrew), Sorex longirostris Bachman (Southeastern Shrew), Sorex hoyi Baird (Pygmy
Shrew), Cryptotis parva Say (Least Shrew), Peromyscus leucopus Rafinesque
Notes of the Southeastern Nat u ral ist, Issue 8/4, 2009
2009 Southeastern Naturalist Notes 751
(White-footed Mouse), Peromyscus gossypinus LeConte (Cotton Mouse), and Microtus
pinetorum LeConte (Pine Vole).
The mean total length of Smoky Shrews we collected (106.6 ± 0.8 SE, range =
90–120 mm) was at the lower end of the range reported for the species, even for the
south-central region (Choate et al. 1994, Whitaker and Hamilton 1998). Huggins and
Kennedy (1989) concluded that body size of Smoky Shrews was greatest in the central
portion of its range and decreased in the northern- and southernmost populations.
We collected one male (109 mm total length) with enlarged testes on 6 May, 2005. A
female (109 mm total length) collected on 2 June 2005 contained two embryos, both
with a 4-mm crown–rump length. Over 90% of Smoky Shrews were captured on the
upper portion of a north-facing slope at Jack Gap. Within this block, shrews were
captured in a variety of forest stand-types, ranging from clearcuts to those with 50%
of overstory trees retained to undisturbed stands. Smoky Shrews have been found in
a variety of stand types and ages in other southern Appalachian forests (Ford et al.
2002, Greenberg and Miller 2004).
Our records for the Smoky Shrew are the first for Alabama (Mirarchi 2004) and
extend the southwestern edge of the species’ distribution 35 km from the nearest
record in Franklin County, TN (Kennedy and Harvey 1980 [Fig. 1]). Smoky Shrews
have been collected from the Cumberland Plateau in Walker County, GA (Laerm
et al. 1995). Two specimens in the Georgia Museum of Natural History were taken
from a site in Cloudland Canyon State Park in Dade County, GA approximately 8 km
east of the Alabama border. Smoky Shrews may also occur in the Sand and Pigeon
Mountain areas on the Cumberland Plateau south of the Tennessee River. Additional
Figure 1. Distribution of Sorex fumeus (Smoky Shrew) in the southern Appalachian Mountains.
County-level localities are taken from literature sources or museums cited below the map, while
the specific locations of the two sites where Smoky Shrews were detected during the present
study are shown. NCSM = North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, VMNH = Virginia
Museum of Natural History, and GMNH = Georgia Museum of Natural History.
752 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 8, No. 4
populations also likely occur on the Cumberland Plateau of northern Jackson and
Madison counties. However, surveys by Laerm et al. (1995) did not detect Smoky
Shrews in the Talladega National Forest of Alabama. The fact that Smoky Shrews
remained undetected in Alabama until now points to the need for additional biotic
inventories in many areas of the southeastern United States.
Acknowledgments. We thank all those who helped in the field, especially Idun
Guenther. Financial support was provided by the USDA Forest Service’s Southern
Research Station, National Science Foundation (to YW, HUD-0420541), and the
Plant and Soil Science Department and School of Agriculture and Environmental
Science of Alabama A&M University. Thanks also to Stevenson Land Co. and the
Alabama DCNR Lands Division for access to study sites. We thank L. McGhee
(Georgia Museum of Natural History), N. Moncrief (Virginia Museum of Natural
History), S. McLaren (Carnegie Museum), S. Hutchinson (University of North Carolina
at Wilmington), and C. Ludwig (United States National Museum) for sharing
data on specimens. The manuscript was improved by Jennifer Jordan. This publication
was developed under a STAR Research Assistance Agreement No. U 916242
awarded by the US Environmental Protection Agency. It has not been formally
reviewed by the EPA. The views expressed in this document are solely those of the
authors. This research was carried out under Alabama Department of Conservation
and Natural Resources collecting permit # 4144.
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1Center for Forestry, Ecology, and Wildlife, Alabama A&M University, Normal, AL 35762.
2Current address - Biology Department, Reinhardt College, Waleska, GA 30183 3North Carolina
Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC 27601. 4USDA Forest Service, Southern Research
Station, Alabama A&M University, AL 35762. *Corresponding author - firstname.lastname@example.org.