How do I tell different types of Shrew apart?
There are three types of Shrew found in the British Isles, these are:
- the Water Shrew
- the Common Shrew
- the Pygmy Shrew.
Shrews have long pointed snouts, small ears and tiny eyes, and must eat every couple of hours so are mostly likely to be seen or heard foraging for food throughout the day. Shrews are insectivores and only eat insects.
The Water Shrew is the easiest to distinguish, as it is the darkest and the largest of the three. They have dark slate or black fur with a pale underside and a body length of between 7cm and 10cm. It is semi-aquatic and most often found in habitats close to water, including streams, ponds and ditches. They particularly like the banks of clear, fast flowing streams and rivers, and are often located near Water Cress beds, and damp, marshy areas. Their main food source is freshwater shrimps, water skaters and caddis larvae.
The Common Shrew has a body length of between 6cm and 9cm and has a yellow-brown stripe dividing their brown fur from their grey-white underside. They live almost anywhere but are particularly found in hedgerows, scrub land, grassland and deciduous woodland.
The Pygmy Shrew has the longest tail and the shortest body of the three. Its body length ranges between 5cm and 6cm and their tail can grow to roughly 70% of this length. They are commonly the same colour as the Common Shrew, although they do not have the yellow-brown stripe dividing the upper and lower fur. The Pygmy Shrew is usually found in rough grassland.
All shrews are protected under the 1982 Wildlife and Countryside Act and may only be trapped under licence.