Radiotelemetry is a widely used method to study ecology, behavior, and physiology of different animals but has rarely been used on shrews. Small body size, wide neck and narrow skull, high mobility, and fragility of shrews cause problems for both transmitter attachment and the safety of the animals. We developed a method for nonpermanent attachment of transmitters, which allowed us to track such small mammals as the Eurasian water shrews (Neomys fodiens; n = 39, mean body mass 14.9 g), Mediterranean water shrews (Neomys anomalus; n = 32, 10.9 g), and common shrews (Sorex araneus; n = 51, 8.1 g). We used microtransmitters weighing 0.47 g, but those we applied to the larger Neomys species were heavier (0.67 g) because we fortified them with a layer of hard material to prevent damage from biting. We glued a transmitter directly to the skin on a shrew's back, with the anterior edges particularly well sealed. We tracked shrews in the wild and in outdoor enclosures. Transmitters usually dropped off together with peeled skin (on average, after 56.0 hr, n = 92 observations), but if not dropped and if the signal was not lost, mean duration of monitoring was 96.7 hours (n = 37) and in 2 cases exceeded 194 hours. Other advantages of our attachment method were 1) it was less invasive and easier to apply than implantation of transmitters into the body cavity, and 2) we could find dropped transmitters and reuse them. We give suggestions on how to minimize the risk of injury to animals by correct handling, manipulation, and gluing. In conclusion, we recommend radiotelemetry as a useful technique for studying shrew behavior in both free-living populations and experimental enclosures.
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Vol. 74 • No. 6