Pygmy shrew

©Peter Redfern

Pygmy shrew

Scientific name: Sorex minutus
The diminutive pygmy 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: 4-6cm
Tail: 3-4.5cm
Weight: 2-6g
Average lifespan: 1-1.5 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 pygmy 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 spiders and woodlice. Pygmy shrews can be found in most habitats. 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 one or two litters of around six young.

How to identify

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

Distribution

Widespread, but absent from the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly, Shetland and some parts of Orkney.

Did you know?

The pygmy shrew is always hungry: it can eat 125% of its body weight every day! It mainly preys on insects, spiders and woodlice, but, unlike the common shrew, does not eat earthworms.

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 pygmy 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.