The nature of things
WITH owls now hunting for their young as well as themselves, a dependable staple on the menu is the inconspicuous, buffbrown pygmy shrew.
As its name suggests, this is a diminutive representative of its kind, barely a couple of inches long and weighing in at just 4g–6g. Foraging over a wide range of neighbourhoods including pastures, woodland, gardens, hedgerows and heaths, Sorex minutus isn’t easy to spot as it goes about, mostly via a network of runways through ground-covering vegetation. Being so small, but having an energetic metabolism, these little mammals never rest for long, needing to refuel at least every hour or two and unable to spend a languourous winter in subterranean hibernation.
Foraged fare includes woodlice, spiders, caterpillars, small beetles and other invertebrates to be found among tussocks and leaf-litter, the long snout being a convenient probe through the vegetation.
The little nest, rounded and made of grass, comes into its own now, with up to three litters being produced between April and October, of some four to six young each. Should the chance ever arise to look at this little shrew’s teeth, they will be seen to be reddish at the tips due to iron deposits, which act as protection against wear and tear during its short life, which may last anywhere from just a few weeks to two years. KBH