The water shrew is the largest of the five species of British shrews and like all shrews leads a hectic life, busy by day and night on the look-out for food. 


Feeding and swimming

The water shrew alternates between short periods of activity and rest, making regular short trips out of its home to forage for food, poking its sensitive nose into every nook and crannie, pouncing on earthworms and any small minibeasts.

In the water, it has to paddle fast because air trapped under its fur makes it buoyant and if it stopped swimming it would bob up to the surface. A fringe of bristly hairs along the underside of the tail acts as a rudder and the tail can be used to grip twigs and branches. It hunts along the bottom of a river or stream, turning over stones with its grasping feet, and can stay underwater for 20 seconds at a time. Prey is carried ashore to be eaten.

The shrew's mouth is full of sharp, pointed teeth which allow it to hang on to prey securely as it chews. The saliva contains a poison which probably stuns larger prey, such as frogs, to stop them struggling. Sometimes a shrew hoards food when there is a plentiful supply. It eats roughly its own body weight in food each day.

The water shrew does not like being in the water for long and comes ashore often to dry itself. It squeezes along the narrow passageways of its tunnel to get rid of the water from its fur and then grooms itself thoroughly.

Read More: Breeding

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