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The members of this group share a keen sense of smell, a diet of insects and other invertebrates, and five toes on each foot, but vary a lot in size and appearance.

The hedgehog is the animal most likely to be seen or heard, rooting about in the garden, although the presence of moles is also very obvious from the hills of earth they leave behind.

Shrews only tend to be noticed when the cat brings them in. Two species found in Essex are widespread in the rough grassland, scrub and woodland that they favour: the common shrew and pygmy shrew.

The water shrew, which favours wetlands, is not so common.

© Trevor Birkby