I have been fascinated with the shrew footage I am capturing from my Clay Cavern set up.
I had seen very little of shrews before I had these cameras, other than the occasional, untouched individual presented to me by my cats. Shrews have glands in their skin which make them distasteful, hence any your cat may catch are unlikely to be eaten.
I have found myself wanting to know more about these rather comical looking creatures, so have done a little research to try to learn more about their habits and lifestyle. Shrews are well-known for their voracious appetites and the common shrew has to eat every two to three hours and needs to consume 80 to 90 percent of their body weight in food in 24 hours. No wonder they are so keen to visit the plentiful food supply in the clay cavern! They feed on most terrestrial insects, but will also take worms, slugs and snails. They are happy to eat the dried mealworms, but I have bought some live mealworms which are very well received. Next time I dig up a worm might try that in there and have the record button at the ready!
The common shrew is most active during the night, at dusk, and at dawn, but has to intersperse these bursts of activity with rest periods. Shrews do not hibernate as they are too small to store fat reserves sufficient to see them through the winter.
They are very territorial and I have seen examples of their aggression, as they are reluctant to put up with any other voles of mice in the cavern.
I do get at least three different individuals visiting my set up… one is much larger, very dark in colour and looks very fat. There are at least two other, smaller individuals.
These shrews begin breeding in early spring, with mating begins in March, and one to two (sometimes three or four) litters are produced in a year, each one consisting of six to seven young . By 16 days of age the young begin to emerge from the nest, they can occasionally be seen following their mother around in a ‘caravan’, usually if the nest has been disturbed. The young grab the tail of the shrew in front of it, so the mother takes the lead and her offspring follow in a train. Juveniles breed in the year after their birth, but occasionally those born early in the year can breed between July and September that year . Common shrews live for 14 to 19 months, and mortality rates are high with their main predators including owls, birds of prey, foxes, cats and stoats and weasels.