Marita's picture

The Water Shrew

Observed: 29th July 2008 By: Marita
S159 Neighbourhood Nature - course complete
Marita’s reputation in MammalsMarita’s reputation in Mammals
Species interactions

No interactions present.


Stumpy's picture

Itook this Breeding. The

Itook this
Breeding. The height of the breeding season is in late May and June, although it varies with the weather. Shrews communicate with each other by scent and high-pitched squeaks and twitters. The male approaches a female to see if she is ready to mate. If she is not they may fight instead.

from this site

Lots of info on here.

I'm a student so be gentle.

Gill Sinclair's picture

Water Shrew

Gorgeous shrew. Did you catch it in a Longworth trap or similar? Didn't it bite you?! - looks quite calm.

Gill Sinclair
OU Certificate in Contemporary Science
Twitter @Gill_Sinclair

froglet's picture


Haven't they got brilliant noses?

Open University S104

the naturalist man's picture

Water Shrew

Excellent photos of this attractive shrew. As you can see they are much larger than the other shrews. They are often caught in Longworth traps set near water.

I find then to be hardier than the common or pygmy shrews, both of which I never handle as they have a tendency to have heart attacks when distressed. I am lucky though, in 20 years of trapping small mammals I've only had one dead shrew in a trap. I do recommend you wear gloves when handling these little fellows as their bite can carry infections.

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'

Marita's picture

This shrew was not caught in

This shrew was not caught in a trap, we just got lucky and found it in day light on a track. ( we did have to be very quick to catch it) I dont think it was injured or anything it did not seem slow or in difficulty . We did not really know what it was till we got home and looked in some books. One of the books(not sure which) suggested that its bite is poisonous! It was very wriggly and hard to hold but did not try to bite as such. Are males and females the same size?


Milvus's picture

Water shrew! I once hand

Water shrew! I once hand caught one, in the height of summer, whilst working on the re-furbishment of some bird of prey aviaries (it was running aroudn inside the wooden pens) at least 500m away from the nearest wetland habitat. So they can go 'walk about'!

And, Graham's right, they can nip!

the naturalist man's picture

Poisonous bite

The bite is not strictly poisonous, in the way snakes are. Rather, as I mentioned above, their saliva is full of nasty bacteria which can cause skinn irritations and swelling etc.

It is very unusal to find one so far from water, I can not imagine what it was doing!

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'

bobthebirder's picture

water shrew

I have twice found them on Portland - an island that has virtually no natural water courses at all! I believe they are quite happy hunting worms in shady undergrowth, as in the quarry and undercliff habitat on Portland.

Bob Ford

Milvus's picture

Yes, I suspect Bob is

Yes, I suspect Bob is right.

It was interesting when I hand-caught this shrew in the bird aviaries (obviously, I was excited when I realised what it was - okay, I get easily excited!). Standing nearby were two very good, highly qualified (at least two post-graduate degrees between them) natural historians, who work for two of the top wildlife organisations in the UK. Seing me excited by my find, I showed them it and said, something along the lines of 'Can you believe, what I have just caught?'. Blank looks.

Until I talked them through the ID features, they just didn't get it. I presume that they thought it was 'just a shrew' (presumably a 'giant', dark common shrew?). So perhaps even some experienced naturalists, aren't expecting to see water shrew away from water, hence, self-fulfilling prophesy, they don't!

If bird vagrancy tells us anything, it is that almost anything, can turn up almost anywhere (within reason of course, shrews have got little legs). I suppose the lesson is suspend disbelief, look at the evidence. Thanks for a fascinating exchange.