Accommodation of Casualty Shrews (Wildlife Casualty Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management/ Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B.  This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Accommodation which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Crocidura russula - Greater white-toothed shrew, Crocidura suaveolus - Lesser white-toothed shrew, Neomys fodiens - Eurasian water shrew, Sorex araneus - Eurasian common shrew, Sorex coronatus - French shrew, Sorex minutus - Eurasian pygmy shrew

These species are within the family Soricidae.

Transport Container:

  • A secure container is required.
    • e.g. a small plastic aquarium with a mesh-ventilated lid incorporating a trap-door.
    • Plastic ice cream tub or margarine container with small holes in the lid for ventilation
    • Biscuit tin, with small holes in the lid for ventilation.
    • Jam-jar, with small holes in the lid for ventilation.
  • One or two pieces of kitchen roll to line the floor of the container
  • N.B. Cardboard boxes are not suitable due to the high risk of escape through holes gnawed in the box.
  • (B151, D25, V.w5, V.w26)

Short term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation:

  • Adequate ventilation is required but it is important to ensure that shrews cannot extend the holes by gnawing and escape.
  • Escape-proof box such as a small plastic aquarium with a plastic mesh lid, preferably with a trapdoor in the lid for ease of changing food and water with minimal risk of the occupant escaping.
  • Sand or shavings are suitable as a substrate. 
  • Absorbent substrate to soak up urine.
  • Provide bedding/burrowing material of sufficient depth for the shrew to burrow through.
  • Nest box or other hideaway is essential, just big enough for the shrew to curl up in (B10.39.w28)
  • Cardboard tubes e.g. from kitchen roll provides a hiding place and, with both ends blocked, facilitates transfer from one container to another (B151).
  • (B10.39.w28, B151, V.w26).

Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation:

  • Escape-proof well ventilated container:
  • e.g. glass aquarium or small plastic aquarium with a plastic mesh lid, preferably with a trapdoor in the lid for ease of changing food and water with minimal risk of the occupant escaping.
  • Provide sufficient suitable substrate for burrowing e.g. sand or shavings.
  • Nest box or other hideaway is essential
  • Cardboard tubes e.g. from kitchen roll provide a hiding place.
  • Objects such as rocks may be provided for hiding under.
  • (B151).

Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation:

  • Commercially available rack-mounted rodent cages with solid bottoms and sides, aquaria with a wire top, topless tins, wooden boxes etc. may be used.
  • Substrate should be provided with sufficient depth for the shrew to burrow through. Suitable litters include softwood wood chips, crumbled moss, forest floor litter, loose earth, dried leaves or mixtures of these; sand several centimetres deep with moss/dry leaf litter over this has also been used successfully.
  • Nestbox or other hideaway is essential. Nestbox should be just large enough for the shrew to curl up in. This may be e.g.:
  • a wooden box with a single entrance hole near the bottom;
  • an inverted flower pot;
  • a glass jar (open end down);
  • a tin.
  • Provide soft hay or freshly cut grass for lining the nest box.
  • Place food and water containers, and nestbox in corners rather than the centre of the cage.
  • (J23.15.w1, J23.26.w1, B10.39.w28, B224).
  • If an animal is maintained in long-term care accommodation for a substantial period of time, the animal must have some form of environmental enrichment to encourage natural behaviours (possibly through food presentation techniques, cage furniture that encourages activity, or play items that would be found in its native environment). This is to reduce the risk of boredom as the animal becomes accustomed to its enclosure and the possible development of stereotypies (abnormal repetitive movements such as pacing etc.) indicative of behavioural problems. (V.w6)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Short-term (Immediate / Emergency) Accommodation is designed to be used for a short period of time only, e.g. prior to examination, to allow basic first-aid to be carried out, while an animal requires intensive care, or while specialist accommodation is being prepared.
    • The most important requirements are warmth, quiet and dark or dim lighting.
  • Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation is designed for the short-term care of individual animals or groups of animals, particularly during treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Hospital accommodation is commonly constructed with hygiene and easy cleaning as the main considerations, but the specific needs of the patients, including behavioural needs, should also be considered.
  • Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation facilities for wildlife are generally larger and more complex than accommodation designed only for temporary occupancy.
    • In general this type of accommodation is not suitable for animals which require daily treatment.
    • A period in rehabilitation accommodation is important when an animal has been hospitalised for some time.
  • Good ventilation is important for maintenance of coat condition (J23.15.w1).
  • Food and water containers and the nest box preferentially should be placed in corners or along the sides, not in the middle of the cage, as shrews generally tend to avoid going into the centre of the cage unless forced to do so. (J23.15.w1).
  • Substrate should be provided with sufficient depth for the shrew to burrow through.
  • A nestbox retreat, just big enough for the shrew to curl up in, is important.
  • Cardboard tubes e.g. from kitchen roll not only provide a hiding place but also, with both ends blocked, facilitate transfer from one container to another (B151).
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Shrews kept in covered containers with poor ventilation rapidly become wet/oily and unkempt (J23.15.w1).
  • Shredded wool and cotton are not appropriate as substrates as they may become tangled around shrews.
  • Shredded paper is not suitable as a substrate because its rustling appears to frighten shrews.
  • Adequate ventilation is essential.
  • Ventilation holes must be designed to prevent shrews being able to enlarge them through gnawing and escape.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Small plastic aquaria and glass aquaria are widely available from pet stores.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • No particular expertise is required for accommodation construction.
Cost/ Availability
  • Materials required are readily available and not particularly expensive.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Accommodation for casualty wild animals should be designed to minimise the stress on the animal and to minimise the risk of injury to that animal.
  • A wild animal in captivity is protected under the same welfare legislation as domestic animals, e.g. Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000; under this legislation it is an offence to treat a captive animal cruelly or to cause it unnecessary suffering.
    • This includes an obligation to provide proper attention and care.
    • The keeper has a duty to keep all wildlife casualties in a fit manner, in accommodation of a size which allows reasonable movement and with an environment suitable for its normal way of life.
    • (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, D27, D28)
  • Accommodation which does not fulfil the physiological and psychological requirements of the animal and results in an inadequate level of fitness at the time of release may seriously compromise the survival ability of that animal. Release of an animal which is unfit may be an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960. (J35.147.w1, W5.Jan01)
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risk of zoonotic illness must be minimised: Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.
  • An offence may be committed under article 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 if a species on Schedule 9 of that Act, or a species not ordinarily resident in the UK is allowed to escape from accommodation in which it is being housed.
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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