Use of hair tubes to survey for shrews: new methods for identification and quantification of abundance


  • Editor: RM

M. Pocock. E-mail:


  • 1Accurate and sensitive survey and monitoring methods are needed for shrews. We present a new design of hair tube and a new, simple method of species identification from multivariate analysis of four parameters measured from shrew guard hairs using a binocular microscope with incident light.
  • 2Multivariate analysis of these parameters measured from hairs of known identity showed that they can be used to identify hair to the species level with 85% accuracy.
  • 3We compared our indices of abundance from hair tubes (the hair tube index) with those from live trapping in 40 field margins. Capture-mark-recapture methods showed that capture rate did not vary systematically across sites, so that number of individuals captured was used as an index of abundance.
  • 4The hair tube index showed a significant association with the number of individuals captured for Sorex araneus and Neomys fodiens. The lack of a significant association for Sorex minutus may be because hair tubes are more sensitive in detecting this species than live trapping.
  • 5Hair tubes have additional advantages over live trapping, since they do not require frequent checking, are much lighter and cheaper than live traps, and no licence is required for their use in the UK. We therefore recommend consideration of their use in future surveys and monitoring studies of shrews. We provide an equation so that other researchers can use our multivariate method.