SILKY SHREW OPOSSUM – [Caenolestes fuliginosus]

Physical characteristics: The silky shrew opossum is probably the best known of the shrew opossum species. Its head and body length ranges from 3.7 to 5.3 inches (9.3 to 13.5 centimeters), the tail 3.7 to 5 inches (9.3 to 12.7 centimeters). The fur on the dorsal (back) body is soft and thick, and colored a dark brown gradually giving way to lighter brown on the lower body and underbelly.

Geographic range: The silky shrew opossum inhabits the western Andes of northern and western Colombia, extreme western Venezuela, and Ecuador.

Habitat: This shrew opossum is nocturnal and terrestrial, preferring cool, wet areas with heavy vegetation. The species is found in alpine scrub forests and meadow zones of the Andes, at altitudes from 4,500 to 12,000 feet (1,500 to 4,000 meters).

Diet: Silky shrew opossums eat mostly caterpillars, centipedes, and spiders, varied with fruit.

Behavior and reproduction: The breeding season is believed to be July, because animals caught in August were suckling (nursing, or feeding breast milk) their young. Silky shrew opossums run by bounding, front feet and rear feet working as units and alternating. If threatened, an individual will open its jaws wide and hiss. The tail is not prehensile (able to grab or hold things), but the animal will use it as a sort of third leg when sitting upright.

Silky shrew opossums and people: There is little to no interaction between silky shrew opossums and humans.

Conservation status: The silky shrew opossum has no special conservation status.