Common shrews are one of Britain’s most abundant small mammals. They are recognisable from their long, narrow, twitching snout, silky brown fur and grey underside. They are very hard mammals to spot as they spend much of their life either beneath the leaf litter, where they use old mouse runs to get around, or in the soil, where they dig their own burrows. Occasionally, a high-pitched squeak can be heard in the grass, which is a good sign that shrews are about!
They are most active at night, particularly at dusk and dawn and are solitary animals that can be very aggressive towards each other. Their eyesight is poor and so they use their acute sense of smell to detect their food. Their long snout and whiskers are constantly probing and sniffing the soil to find food and they can locate prey, which is up to 12cm underground.
Common shrews mate between April & September and after a pregnancy of 22-24 days, the females give birth to six or seven blind, hairless young. The young grow rapidly and become independent within three weeks but 50% of young shrews die in the first two months. Females can have two to four litters per year depending on the weather and the availability of food.
Worms, spiders, slugs, insect larvae, beetles and woodlice.
Woodland, thick grass and hedgerows, particularly road verges and other grassy banks. They make nests of dried grass and leaves under logs and grass tussocks or in the burrows of other species.
Predators & threats
Mostly owls but also stoats, weasels and foxes. Domestic cats frequently kill shrews but do not eat them, because of their unpleasant taste.
Status & distribution
Common shrews are very common and widely distributed throughout mainland Britain. They are however absent from Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Northern Isles and the Outer Hebrides.