Common Shrew

Sorex araneus

  1. Wildlife
  2. Mammals
  3. Common Shrew


A small insectivorous mammal with 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 earthworms, spiders and chrysalises. Common Shrews can be found in most habitats, but prefer woodland and grassland. 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 three of four litters of around six young.

How to identify

Shrews can be distinguished from mice and voles by their tiny eyes, very small ears and pointy faces. Common Shrews are larger than Pygmy Shrews but their tails are only half the length of their body (Pygmy Shrew tails are two-thirds the length of their bodies). They are normally dark brown on the back, have chestnut-coloured sides and are grey or silver underneath.

Where to find it

Widespread, found everywhere except for the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly, Scottish islands, the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.


When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Common Shrews are widespread but the loss of our hedgerows, field margins and other habitats due to changes in agricultural practices is a potential threat. Pesticides can also affect these small creatures, building up in the food chain and, subsequently, their prey. Working with farmers and landowners to ensure wildlife-friendly practices, The Wildlife Trusts are working towards a Living Landscape: a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country, which are good for both wildlife and people. You can help your local shrew population by making your garden a haven for wildlife, encouraging a wide range of invertebrates as food for shrews and leaving rough areas of grass and shrubbery in which they can hunt and hide.

Species information

Common name
Common Shrew
Latin name
Sorex araneus
Length: 7cm (plus a tail of about 4cm) Weight: 5-14g Average lifespan: 1-2 years
Conservation status
Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.