least shrew

(Cryptotis parva parva)


The native least shrew resembles a miniature short-tailed shrew with a smaller size of 2 3/4 to3 5/8 inches and weighing 4-5 grams. It is cinnamon in color, and has a short tail and may be distinguished from all other shrews by these traits. The breeding season is from March-November during which time, several litters of 2-7 young each are produced. This species exhibits little aggressive behavior and is very social, which is very unusual among the shrews. It is active day and night, and eats insects and other small animals. It may eat more than its own weight in food each day. It nests under debris or beneath the surface of the ground, sometimes in beehives. As many as 31 have been found in 1 nest in the winter. They rely heavily on smell and hearing to find their food. This species is found with Blarina, Peromyscus, Oryzomys palustris, Microtus pennsylvanicus, and in the runways of Synaptomys copperi stonei. This shrew has been known to live almost two years in captivity but in the wild is heavily preyed upon by owls.


This species occurs statewide, but is not often seen. They prefer a habitat of open areas such as fields and meadows with grassy cover and scattered brush. This species is common in marshes of coastal Virginia and associated with saltmarsh grass (Distichlis spicata), Spartina alternifolia, and grasswort (Salicornia europea).


The primary foods consumed include butterfly and moth larvae, earthworms, insects, spiders, and centipedes.