The Department of Natural Sciences and the Natural History Collection at Dickinson State University recently received confirmation from the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History that a shrew captured in Billings County was properly identified as a Merriam's shrew or Sorex merriami.
The shrew was captured in 2011 as part of a project examining small mammals at prairie dog towns. This faculty and student research project is being conducted by Dr. Michael Shaughnessy, associate professor of biology and curator of the DSU Natural History Collection.
Merriam's shrew is known in North Dakota from only one specimen documented in 1913 near Medora, N.D. This single specimen is housed in the National Museum of Natural History's collection in Washington, D.C. The DSU Natural History Collection now houses only the second specimen of this uncommon shrew ever caught in the state.
The National Museum of Natural History has requested, if DSU catches more of these shrews, that the university be willing to donate some of the specimens to their holdings. This summer, Shaughnessy's prairie dog project, which is funded by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, will be selecting sites that may produce more of the Merriam's shrew.
For more information on the DSU Department of Natural Sciences, visit www.dickinsonstate.edu/academics.