By Andy Hargreaves

A Scilly shrew recorded by Bob Flood in 2013.

A Scilly shrew recorded by Bob Flood in 2013.

There’s been more evidence that the numbers of Scilly shrews are on the increase.

Seabird recovery project staff have noticed many more of the rare mammals on St Agnes and Gugh.

Project officer Jaclyn Pearson says more scientific evaluation is needed, but her team is convinced that the RSPB-funded rat cull, which cost almost £1m, is the reason for the change.

The scheme aims to protect rare Manx shearwater and storm petrels by removing rats, which eat their eggs.

But the project team also had evidence that the rats’ diet included shrews too.

Jaclyn says the shrews can be monitored using ink tunnels, which record the footprints of the tiny rodents.

Before the rats were removed, Jaclyn says they found very low numbers and only in the dense scrub areas of the islands. The team put this down to this type of habitat being the only area that shrews could hide from rats.

Now, they’re seeing evidence for up to four shrews around each tunnel and they’re spread out across St Agnes and Gugh.

Jaclyn says the Scilly shrew is a special creature that’s distinct from its mainland cousin. It’s related to another species found in the Channel Islands and it’s unclear whether these were brought to Scilly by boat, or whether they evolved here.

But you’ll still have to work hard to spot one of the shrews on Agnes or Gugh. Jaclyn says they’re small, move very quickly and are mainly nocturnal and the beaches are the best place to catch a glimpse of one.