pygmy shrew

(Sorex hoyi winnemana)


The pygmy shrew’s most outstanding characteristic is it’s very small size, weighing in at only two grams (less than a dime) and having an average total length of 4 inches. This makes it the smallest mammal in North America. It is similar to the masked shrew in coloring being brown above and gray below and having a tail that is 1/3 of its body length. Reproduction occurs in July or August, producing 1 litter per year of 5-8 young. This species inhabits wooded and open areas, wet or dry and make burrows in the leaf litter and rotting logs. They emit a powerful musk when excited, which is used in marking territory and attracting a mate. Pygmy shrews are active at all times and in all seasons, through most active in the dark hours. They are probably more abundant then the meager records we have indicate.


In Virginia the pygmy shrew is found in all but the southeastern and southcentral counties.They are probably distributed statewide in Virginia (except possibly the eastern shore), throughout a wide range of elevations and a variety of habitat types, but trapping of this extremely small shrew has proved difficult. This species forages in dead plant material and burrows in leaf mold in both dry and moist woodlands and grassy borders. Those trapped in forest situations were under or beside rotting logs or stumps.


The pygmy shrew has been found to eat mainly spiders, insect larvae, and beetles, as well as caterpillars and many other invertebrates.