ANCHORAGE -- Shrews are at the bottom of Anchorage's latest wildlife debate.
Or is it mice?
Either way, pesky critters are invading a noticeable number of homes.
One pest control company says the city is suffering an infestation of shrews due to a snowless early winter that sent them scurrying into homes and shops.
Another says the milder than normal winter played a part, but it's house mice, not shrews, that have moved in.
Still another says there are no more shrews or mice than usual.
But American Pest Management has taken four times its normal number of calls about the pests, said co-owner Everett Walton.
"The shrews this winter are the worst we have ever seen," Walton told the Anchorage Daily News. "We went through four times as much (poison) as we normally do."
Amy Holonics says she's seeing mice "walk bravely across her porch" this spring. She even found one on the floor of her car.
Walton insists the little critter he's been summoned to exterminate is the shrew, the smallest mammal on Earth.
Rick Sinnott, a biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said he hadn't heard of any plagues of shrews. The problem is more likely to involve the common house mouse, he said.
Shrews, native to Alaska, are primarily carnivorous and eat insects, although they will consume seeds and nuts, Sinnott said. They have a furious metabolic rate and must consume their body weight in food every day. They need lots of protein, and have been known to devour each other.
The common house mouse, on the other hand, inspired Mickey Mouse, Sinnott noted. The house mouse has trailed humans from Eurasia, where it developed, to nearly every corner of the world, including Alaska. It is more likely than the shrew to eat human food and live indoors, Sinnott said.
Walton disagreed. Sometimes mice and voles - a mouse-like rodent also native to Alaska - will move into buildings. But it is shrews that have departed the city's parks, backyards and empty lots and invaded its dwellings, he insisted.
"I've seen them by the millions," Walton said. "I can't say it any plainer."