The little white-toothed shrew


Crocidura russula is considered the most common shrew in the Portuguese territory and holds the status of “Least Concern” (LC) according to the Red Book of Vertebrates of Portugal. It can be easily identified given its physical characteristics, in particular the size of its ears and, obviously, its white teeth, and is one of the residents of the Vale de Beja estate, managed by The Navigator Company. Should we get to know it better?

The white-toothed shrew can adapt relatively easily to hot climates and can be found all over Europe and predominantly in the Iberian Peninsula, from the north to the south of Portugal. As regards its habitat, it looks for open areas with abundant herbaceous vegetation. However, given its ability to adapt to different environments, it can also be spotted in urbanised areas, such as gardens and crop areas, for example.

Its name derives from its white teeth, namely 3 unicuspid teeth, but there is much more to say about the physiology of the Crocidura russula species. This small mammal measures between 5 and 8.5 cm and has a narrow head and pointed snout with light-coloured whiskers, rounded ears and small eyes, a greyish (in winter) or reddish-brown (in summer) back, albeit whiter in the womb area. Its tail is long and covered with long, insulated hair.

As this is a polyphasic species, its day is split in different periods. In this particular case, during its usual 8 hours of activity, it alternates between short active periods (mostly at night) and periods of rest.

In terms of feeding, the white-toothed shrew is insectivorous and its diet consists therefore of insects and a wide variety of small invertebrates, occasionally lizards and small rodents.

As for the breeding season, which begins when it reaches 3 months of (sexual) maturity, it takes place between February and November. Gestation lasts on average between 28 to 33 days and, per year, and each female can have between 4 to 5 litters, in turn, composed of 2 to 10 offsprings. Oddly enough, during mating, the couple defends the territory together.

Did you know that the white-toothed shrew

Those who live in the city tend to be bolder and more active, compared to those in rural environments.

It hibernates in the colder months in burrows under logs or rocks, and if a burrow accommodating offprings is disturbed, the female takes them elsewhere in an orderly row.

In winter, it builds nests that can accommodate up to 6 individuals.

  • White-toothed shrew

    Crocidura russula

  • Mammal

  • Genus


  • Family


  • Conservation status:

    Least concern (LC)

  • Habitat

    Margins of forests and woodlands, cork oak forests and cultivated areas.

  • Distribution

    It is found in several countries in Europe and is quite common in the Iberian Peninsula and, in particular, from the north to the south of Portugal (coastal regions and hinterland).

  • Size

    About 5 to 8.5 cm long

  • Longevity

    Up to 18 months

How to tend to this species?

In the 700 hectares of the Vale de Beja Navigator property, in the municipality of Odemira, the white-toothed shrew falls under the species covered in Areas of Interest for Conservation.

Altogether, 126 hectares are under the responsible management of this Company and in this location habitat renovation actions are carried out as a “means to reconcile the need to preserve biodiversity with the company’s production objectives”, according to Nuno Rico, biodiversity conservation expert. Source:

 This species exists in abundance also at Quinta de São Francisco – managed by Navigator and located just 10 minutes from the centre of Aveiro. It was identified in 2006 and is often found in the gardens and next to the buildings of the RAIZ Research Institute, where one of the largest eucalyptus arboretums in Europe is located.

When it comes to reconciling biodiversity and productivity, knowledge is our greatest tool. That is why, in 2019, The Navigator Company made its properties available for fieldwork carried out by the WildForests project to study the diversity and living standards of animal species in forests planted for wood production.

For two years, and in fields of study that include eucalyptus forests, several species were then surveyed, including the white-toothed shrew. This project enabled us, above all, to learn more about the mammal species present in eucalyptus and the practices that favour them, helping The Navigator Company to take the best forest management options to integrate them into its biodiversity conservation strategy.

The WildForests project (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-028204) was funded by the ERDF, through COMPETE2020 — Operational Program for Competitiveness and Internationalization (POCI), and national funds (OE), from FCT/MCTES.