Water Shrew

Durham Priority Species
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Water Shrew Action Plan

Priority Species: Water Shrew


  1. To encourage survey work and to collate data to establish the status of this species within the DBAP area, and to allow conservation measures to be developed if required
Vision Statement: To achieve an expansion of both population and range.
Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the current population and range of water shrew within the Durham BAP area. maintain occupied km squares tbc


The water shrew is the largest shrew in Britain and is found throughout the UK.  The water shrew is semi-aquatic and inhabits areas such as stream banks, drainage ditches and reedbeds, but juvenile water shrews are sometimes found away from water, presumably during dispersal from natal areas.

Water shrews have a localised distribution and live at low population densities (up to 9 per hectare), inhabiting burrows and feeding on aquatic invertebrates and also small fish and amphibians. Water shrews posses poisonous saliva, which acts to subdue prey, with the effects noticeable even in humans if bitten.

Water shrews produce two to three litters per year of up to 15 young per litter, with adults generally living a maximum of 19 months. Water shrews appear to never be very abundant, making it difficult to establish the status of water shrew populations. There also appears to be under recording of this species in the county, with the recent Mammal Society water shrew survey attracting few records. It is thought that habitat loss could be having a detrimental impact on water shrew numbers, but there is insufficient data to establish if this is the case.

Local status

Nationally, water shrews are widely distributed, but appear to occur more frequently in the south and east, although differences in survey effort across the country could account for the differences seen in the 2004-5 Mammal Society/EA national survey.

Records exist for the southern and north-eastern parts of the DBAP area, but for all intents and purposes the accurate distribution and population status of water shrews within the DBAP area is unknown at this time.


  • Lack of protection due to ignorance of distribution and population status.
  • Habitat destruction due to inappropriate management of rivers, streams and wetlands.