The Eurasian shrew, known simply as the common shrew in Britain, lives in damp habitats across Europe. Its range stops at the Pyrenees and the shrew does not live in Spain or Portugal or in much of southern France, where it is too dry for them. The range extends to the east as far as Lake Baikal in western Siberia.
The common shrew lives in meadows, woodlands and in broken habitats covered in rocks. It survives on mountainsides as high up as the snow line.
Common shrews live alone and forage for food at dusk and before dawn. They feed on small invertebrates and must consume 90 per cent of their body weight each day. (Being such tiny mammals, they lose body heat very quickly and therefore must eat huge amounts to stay alive.) Hibernating is not an option because the shrews could not build up enough body fat to survive the winter without feeding.
Common shrews produce large litters of about six young. After a couple of weeks, the young emerge from their burrow for the first time and can be seen following their mother in a ‘caravan’. The shrews form a train, with each one holding the tail of the shrew in front. The young continue to hold on even when the mother is lifted off the ground.
Identification: The shrew has a tri-coloured fur coat: the back Is reddish brown, the underside is pale grey and the flanks and face are brown. Young shrews have paler fur.
Distribution: Europe from Great Britain and the Pyrenees to Lake Baikal in western Siberia.
Habitat: Woodlands, grasslands, rock fields and sand dunes.
Food: Woodlice, Insects, spiders and worms. Also eats plant foods.
Size: 6cm (2Vhin).
Weight: 9g (1/40z). Maturity: Between 9 and 10 months.
Breeding: 2 litters produced in summer after a gestation of 20 days. The young are weaned after 30 days. Life span: 2 years.