Common shrew

©Paul Adams

Common shrew

Scientific name: Sorex araneus
The diminutive common shrew has a distinctively pointy nose and tiny eyes. It lives life in the fast lane, eating every 2-3 hours to survive, and only living for a year or so. Look out for it in the garden.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 5-8cm
Tail: 2-4cm
Weight: 5-14g
Average lifespan: 1-2 years

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December

About

A small, insectivorous mammal, the common shrew has tiny eyes and a large nose giving it keen sense of smell. Shrews live life in the fast lane, hectically snuffling through the undergrowth for their prey, which includes earthworms, spiders and chrysalises. They can be found in most habitats, but prefer woodland and grassland. Active by day and night, they are very territorial and aggressive for their size and can sometimes be heard fighting, their high-pitched squeaks particularly noticeable during the summer. Adults may only live for a year, just long enough to have three or four litters of around six young.

How to identify

The common shrew has tiny eyes, very small ears and a pointy face with a long nose. It is dark brown above, grey or silver below, and has chestnut-coloured sides. It is larger than the pygmy shrew, but its tail is only half the length of its body (pygmy shrew tails are two-thirds the length of their bodies).

Distribution

Widespread, but absent from the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly, Scottish islands, the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.

Did you know?

The common shrew is always hungry: it needs to eat 80-90% of its body weight every day to survive. It mainly preys on insects, but will also eat slugs and snails, and will happily tackle earthworms as long as 10cm - bigger than its own body!

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust. You can also help common shrews by making your garden a haven for wildlife: encourage a wide range of invertebrates as food and leave rough areas of grass in which they can hunt and hide.