Species of the Day: Pygmy Shrew (Sorex minutus)

shrew

Pygmy Shrew

 The Pygmy Shrew is the smallest mammal on our island! It can be found throughout a large range of habitats such as peatlands (bogs), hedgerows, grasslands and woodlands/forestry. Pygmy’s can be located in small burrows – however these burrows are not their own! They don’t burrow themselves, but they will use the burrows that other animals have made such as rabbits.

One of the most known things about this species is their appetite!

The Pygmy Shrew must consume as much as 1.25 times their own body weight every day and must eat within every two hours, just to stay alive. This is because of their extremely fast metabolism (high metabolic rate) and their tiny size! Their diet mainly consists of insects and anything smaller than they are such as Beetles, Spiders, Woodlice, Flies, Slugs, etc. This species will hunt both day and night in order to get enough nutrition they need to function.

Pygmy Shrews are very territorial mammals as they live alone for most of their, life except during their breeding seasons (April-October). During this time, males will seek out females in the interest of mating. Territory sizes of all Pygmy Shrews remain the same during the winter season, but when juvenile Pygmy Shrews develop sexual maturity (during March/April) they will then expand the size of their home range in order to find a suitable mate – which can often be up to 80 metres per day! Thats a very long way for such a tiny animal.

 

Female Pygmy Shrews are promiscuous and will mate with as many males as possible to optimise mating success every year. The actual mating taking place is very brief and the males never take part in rearing the offspring. The gestation period for Pygmy Shrews is between 22-25 days and females usually give birth to between 4-6 offspring at a time.

Conservation Status: 

The Pygmy Shrew is protected under the Wildlife Act 1976 and the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000. The species is classified as ‘least concern’ (LC) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the most recent Red-List for Terrestrial Mammals in Ireland.

The distribution of the Pygmy Shrew in Ireland is not certain but the species are believed to be in high abundance across the island.

However, the species have experienced quite a decline in specific areas where competitors are found such as Co. Tipperary.

Interesting Facts: 

Acquired Tastes: Pygmy Shrews are unpalatable to most other mammals due to a really bad smelling secretion from their glands! So many mammals may capture and kill them, they may not always actually eat them afterwards!

Its a small world!: Pygmy Shrews are the smallest mammals in Ireland!

Blind as bats!: Pygmy Shrews have poor eyesight which is why the name of the species in Irish (its Gaelic name) is ‘Dallóg fhraoigh’ – which means ‘Blind Animal of the Heather’.

New neighbours: Pygmy Shrews were thought to be the only Shrew species in Ireland until 2007 when the Great White-Toothed Shrew was discovered in Co. Tipperary! (Which are now threatening the tiny Pygmy Shrew species on the island.)

 

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