Pygmy shrew

┬ęPeter Redfern

Pygmy shrew

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Scientific name: Sorex minutus
The diminutive pygmy shrew has a distinctively pointy nose and tiny eyes. It lives life in the fast lane, eating every 2-3 hours to survive, and only living for a year or so. Look out for it in the garden.

Top facts


Length: 4-6cm
Tail: 3-4.5cm
Weight: 2-6g
Average lifespan: 1-1.5 years

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December


A small, insectivorous mammal, the pygmy shrew has 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 spiders and woodlice. Pygmy shrews can be found in most habitats. 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 one or two litters of around six young.

What to look for

The pygmy shrew has tiny eyes, very small ears and a pointy face with a long nose. It is dark brown above and grey or silver below. It is smaller than the common shrew, and its tail is two-thirds the length of its body (common shrew tails are half the length of their bodies). It also has a smaller, narrower snout.

Where to find

Widespread, but absent from the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly, Shetland and some parts of Orkney.

Did you know?

The pygmy shrew is always hungry: it can eat 125% of its body weight every day! It mainly preys on insects, spiders and woodlice, but, unlike the common shrew, does not eat earthworms.