Common Shrew - Sorex araneus

Alternative names

Shrews have pointed, mobile snouts and small eyes. Common shrews have silky dark brown fur, with a pale underside and light brown flanks. The teeth are red-tipped. Body length: 55-82 mm with a tail length half that of the body. Weight: 5-12 gm.

Similar Species

The Pygmy Shrew is broadly similar but is much smaller, has darker fur and hasa proportionately longer tail (almost as long as the body). See comparison image.

Identification difficulty

Found in hedgerows, meadows, marshes and woods. They are active both day and night (but mostly at night), and rest for only a few minutes between bouts of activity.

When to see it

All year round.

Life History

Life span up to 23 months. Except for when rearing young, shrews are solitary and are extremely aggressive towards each other. They have home ranges, which vary in size from 370-630 square metres and which usually last the shrew's lifetime. Males extend their ranges during the breeding season, in their search for females. They build nests below the ground or under dense vegetation. After a gestation period of 24-25 days, females give birth to 1-10 young (typically six). The breeding season lasts from April to September, but peaks in the summer. The females rear 2-4 litters a year with no help from the males. The young are weaned after 22-25 days, after which they are fully independent of their mothers. Earthworms are one of the Common Shrew's main foods but it eats many other small invertebrates, consuming almost its own weight every day. The shrew finds its food mainly by using its keen sense of smell - it has poor eyesight; long whiskers help it find its way about.

UK Status

Common and widespread over most of mainland Britain and in Ireland. They are the second most common British mammal.

VC55 Status

Common in Leicestershire and Rutland.

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map