During my wild oat days my friends and I would cruise old country roads and throw our empty beer bottles at road signs. We did not know the superior hand-eye coordination that often led to smashed glass saved the lives of many a shrew. Researchers examined nearly 3000 empty glass and plastic bottles and aluminum cans along a road in the Cherokee National Forest, North Carolina and found a total of 202 dead shrews and other small mammals. One single container contained 8 trapped shrews alone. Shrews like to crawl inside small holes for cover and to hunt for insects and mice, but the slick surface of glass or aluminum prevents them from gaining a footing, if the container is tilted at an angle of greater or equal to 15 degrees. They will slide backwards when attempting to exit such a trap. Eventually, they die of starvation or stress or they drown in rain water or the liquid remnants of the container.
3 shrews, a millipede, and a beetle were trapped and drowned in this discarded beer can.
The researchers found 8 species of small mammals trapped inside containers including 134 northern short-tailed shrews, 29 smoky shrews, and 5 southeastern shrews. They also found the remains of other kinds of small mammals–19 white-footed mice, 4 deer mice, 7 woodland voles, 2 southern bog lemmings, and 1 house mouse. Glass containers were deadlier because glass is slicker than aluminum. A discarded container without the lid is a hell on earth for small mammals. If you can’t hit a road sign, make sure you put that container in the trash.
Hamed, Kevin; and Thomas Loughlin
“Small Mammal Mortality Caused by Discarded Bottles and Cans along a U.S. Forest Service Road in Cherokee National Forest”
Southeastern Naturalist 14 (3) 2015