The hairy-tailed shrew is medium in size with a total length 5 1/2 to 7 inches and possesses a short tail, less than 1/4 of its total length, which is fleshy, and densely covered with hair. . The eyes are minute, covered with hair and the feet are large, fleshy and sparsely haired. The fur is dense and silky and the color is fuscous-black, chaetura black, or chaetura drab. Late March to early April is the breeding season. The females produce one litter per year with an average of 2-5 young produced. They live primarily underground in a network of underground tunnels, that consists of surface tunnels and deeper tunnels which are used as burrows in the winter. The winter nest is composed of packed leaves and grass built in deeper tunnels and males and females freely associate in the same tunnel system with no apparent aggression. They are active mostly during the day but they may forage above ground at night. They consume 80-250 percent of their body weight in food each day. Some animals have been known to live in the same tunnel system for as many as five years. They are preyed upon by foxes, owls, opossums, copperheads and bullfrogs.
This species avoids high moisture soils and damp areas. They are limited to the higher elevations of the Appalachians. They can be found in both meadows and forests where moist, loamy soils have good vegetative ground cover but wet or clayey soils are avoided.
They commonly eat beetle and fly larvae, earthworms, slugs and ants. They may store earthworms after paralysis induced by biting them. Fecal studies show that they consume beetle and fly larvae, earthworms, slugs and ants.