By Ruth D’Alessandro, The Wildlife Gardener I’ve had some strange things in my fridge. Pheasants, rabbits, oysters, leggy crustaceans, wild mushrooms, mealworms and even a deceased chinchilla, before its solemn burial in the garden. But even I was rather horrified to see that some New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussels I had bought on Sunday and left loosely wrapped in the fridge had been chewed on by something other than children or husband!:
Some sort of parasitic mussel worm emerging from their innards and eating the flesh perhaps? After all, you sometimes find little pea crabs in your moules mariniere ” they hide inside the mussels and provide extra protein for the less squeamish diner. I had already eaten HALF the packet of mussels. Eeeuw! Mentally I was already in the Hospital for Tropical Medicine having a six”foot parasitic worm pulled from my fundament. Physically, I was about to storm off to the fish counter and complain loudly. Then, as I opened the fridge door, the mystery was solved:
How on earth did a SHREW get into my fridge? We see them regularly on our patio ” they live behind the plant pots. The back door had been open, but who left the fridge open long enough for a shrew to jump in? It seemed a bit puzzled by the light, and a little sluggish due to the cool temperature of the fridge. Usually shrews move like lightning. They need to eat their own body weight of food every day to survive and it had obviously feasted well on the mussels and an open pot of rice salad on the top shelf. It had also produced its own body weight in poo. It seems that shellfish have the same effect on a shrew’s digestion that they do on that of some humans ” diarrhoea. And it was all over the fridge, on every shelf, packet and jar. Because shrews are not rodents, it had not chewed any packaging, but just helped itself to what was available. Serves me right for not storing food in sealed containers. I picked up my minuscule visitor by the base of its tail (to avoid being nipped: shrews have lots of pointy little teeth), placed it in a glass, and to gentle strains of the theme from ‘Born Free‘, released it back behind the patio pots.
Then I spent the rest of the afternoon wiping up shrew poo and disinfecting the fridge. After seeing the number of fleas crowding round my guest’s ears, I didn’t like to guess at the parasites and pathogens lurking in its digestive tract, much less entertain them among my foodstuffs. Most people keep cheese in their fridge. We seem to have small insectivorous mammals.