The na­ture of things

Pygmy shrew

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Edited by Vic­to­ria Marston Il­lus­tra­tion by Bill Dono­hoe

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.