SCUGOG: Denise Jones-Spencer didn’t expect that an encounter with a tiny mammal would end with a hospital visit and lingering medical effects.
The Scugog Island resident was recently treated at Lakeridge Health Port Perry after being bit by what she later identified as a shrew - a tiny mouse-like animal related to the mole and often mistaken for a rodent - which had been discovered running through her home by her dog.
With the arrival of colder temperatures, many wild animals look to the interior of people’s homes for shelter and food, and picking up what she thought was a mouse and transporting the animal outside, it bit her baby finger in the process.
"The mice come in this time of year," she said, "so I went to move him outdoors. I thought my dog had found a mole at first."
However, certain species of shrew are among the very few venomous mammals known to exist and while not immediately apparent, Ms. Jones-Spencer said that she later felt sick and her arm began to swell. She recalled that she went to the hospital with what she described as a "mole bite," adding that hospital staff who treated her were shocked by the reaction.
Ms. Jones-Spencer said that three weeks after the incident, that she still felt cramping in her hands from the bite.
Several shrew species are capable of delivering a venomous bite to prey, which is known to cause painful reactions in humans. The venom of the northern short-tailed shrew (one of several shrew species found through southern Ontario) is chemically similar to the poisonous Mexican beaded lizard and has been studied in Canada for its potential use in cancer medications.
Since the bite, Ms. Jones-Spencer discovered a second shrew in her house, this one caught in a trap. This one, she said, was handled with extreme care.
"I’m not going to touch them again," said Ms. Jones-Spencer. "I’m a grown woman - what if a child was bit?"