What is the smallest mammal to be be found wild in the British Isles? Answer - The Pygmy Shrew
Latin name: Sorex minutus
Size: Approximately 60mms from tip of nose to base of tail. The tail is around 40mms long. The penis of the male pygmy shrew is 2.5mm when fully erect. (Eat yer heart out George W. Bush!)
Distribution: Found throughout the UK.
Months seen: All year round.
Food: Spiders, insects and woodlice.
Habitat: Woods and hedgerows.
Special features: The pygmy shrew is in fact smaller than some of our insects, and can sometimes be found sleeping in the burrows of some beetles. Having such a tiny body, the pygmy shrew needs to consume food at regular intervals in order to maintain its body temperature. In fact it needs to eat every two hours otherwise it may die. For this reason, when you see one they are usually frantically searching for their next meal. A fully grown pygmy shrew is around a quarter of the size of a house mouse. The average weight is around 4 grams - about the same as a penny coin. The breeding season lasts from April through to August. Females usually produce between two and eight young per litter, in an underground nest. Since the gestation period is just over three weeks, they can have up to five litters in one year. In the autumn they put on a thicker coat of fur, but this is no guarantee of surviving the cold winter months. They are often referred to as "annuals" since their life span, at best, is around 15 months.