Natural History and Environmental History of the Shrew from Pimu-Catalina

Another sample of Roy van de Hoek's 1995 - 1999 literature research and natural history field research

I have discovered about 7 articles written on the Shrew from Catalina. None of these articles however, tell us that the Shrew may not be natural to Catalina nor really a unique subspecies, but rather a recent introduction by Native Americans, and therefore, truely an alien (non-native) species. Minimally, at least, the shrew should be considered neither NATIVE nor ALIEN, but rather UNKNOWN, until genetic DNA analyses are completed and published. There is more of a statistical chance and probability analysis would predict that the Shrew is a non-native alien rather than a native animal, certainly not an endemic subspecies. The most likely scenario for how the Shrew dispersed to Catalina is by human assistance, and not on its own by rafting or swimming to Catalina!

Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History



Jack C. von Bloeker
Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History
Published by
Southern California Academy of Sciences Bulletin
Volume 39, Number 23, Pages 163-164

On several occasions at meetings of participating members of the Los Angeles Museum - Channel Islands Biological Survey, in the course of discussions concerning plans and prospects for future work on the islands, George Willett predicted that shrews would be found on one or more of the larger islands, such as Santa Catalina and Santa Cruz. For my own part I must confess that, although I was familiar enough with the topography of the islands to know that certainly there appeared no reason why shrews could not exist there, I was still skeptical that one would ever be found on any of the Channel Islands group. It was with no little surprise then, on April 25, 1941, when I received a special delivery package containing a shrew from Miss Ruth B. Eaton, a school-teacher at Avalon, California. A letter sent by Miss Eaton the day before stated that she had a small animal which had been captured alive in Avalon Canyon and that she thought it might be a shrew. She wrote that it refused to eat in captivity and appeared to be becoming weak - and that if it died she would send it to the museum for identification. Apparently the animal died soon afterward, because her letter arrived at 10 A.M. and the shrew at noon of the same day. The specimen, although "soft" in the abdominal region, was otherwise in good condition and was immediately prepared as a study skin-with-skull by the writer.

Sorex willetti, sp. nov.
Santa Catalina Island Shrew

Type: Male adult, skin and skull, no. 7400, Los Angeles County Museum, from Avalon Canyon, Santa Catalina Island, Los Angeles County, California, April 25, 1941, collected by Miss Ruth B. Eaton, orig. no. 14085JvB.

REMARKS: Inasmuch as only one specimen representing this form is at present available for study, subspecific designation of Sorex willetti at this time would appear unsatifactory. If, and when, additional material comes to hand, it may be possible to demonstrate intergradation with Sorex ornatus through individual variation.

Closing Comments by Robert Roy van de Hoek
Naturalist and Scientist of Southern California:

Additional specimens are now available. I believe that the Shrew is no different from mainland specimens, and was an accidental introduction in the recent past by either european explorer/pioneers, but more likely, arrived by the Native American boat as a stowaway. In any event, the non-native introduced shrew is wreaking havoc on the native, natural, and indigenous, and endemic entomofauna, mollusca fauna, herpetofauna, and avifauna.

Thus, five mammals once thought native to Catalina can now be considered non-native. These mammals include: Santa Cruz Island Fox, Deer Mouse, Harvest Mouse, California Ground Squirrel, and the Ornate Shrew. The first three mammals listed here are proven through published studies and genetic analyses. The data on the shrew and the ground squirrel has yet to be published.

There are however five native marine mammals:
1. Guadalupe Fur Seal;
2. Harbor Seal;
3. California Sea Lion;
4. Sea Otter;
5. Elephant Seal;
These mammals are the true natives of Catalina, and with all due respect, should be restored to Catalina immediately by the Conservancy and L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation. The Wrigley family and the City of Avalon should cooperate. All the government and private entities should work together and seek assistance of the California Department of Fish and Game, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in bringing this to fruition. By the way, DUE RESPECT meant to Catalina native animals and plants, not those self-centered humans opposed to restoration of these five native marine mammals to Pimu-Catalina.