Welcome to the latest news and updates from the Orkney Native Wildlife Project
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New project website and blog
We have launched our new website where you can find out more about our project’s progress, how it came to be, and how you can get actively involved. Our new project website means this is the last blog hosted on the RSPB Orkney community page. Project partner, RSPB Scotland, has been super generous in letting us share their space while we set up our own. Now though, if you want to know how the project to protect Orkney’s unique native wildlife is going, please head over to our new website www.orkneynativewildlife.org.uk to subscribe to our ONWP project blog. That way you will never miss a thing!
Long days and trap rounds
The trappers are not wading through snow these days but instead find themselves negotiating electric fences and different routes as they respect the needs of each landowner laid out in their land access agreement now that more livestock are out. As their job is out regularly walking, occasionally a trapper has also stepped in to help rescue a sheep on its back, or a wayward cow. While the breeding season is in full swing the trap rounds have also been adjusted to not disturb ground-nesting birds such as the hen harrier, short-eared owl and these curlew chicks.
As promised in our March blog here is another update on the trapping progress. Our trapping statistics below show the impact of the trap network on the stoat population. During the breeding season stoat families have less need to raid the bait in the traps as they have access to a plentiful smorgasbord of young wildlife of all varieties easily on hand explaining the reduction in stoat catch numbers.
Project total so far***
Trap boxes deployed in the field
Individual traps checked*
* many trap boxes contain two traps
** the stoats are killed using a type of lethal, humane trap – the DOC 200 – which is approved by the Spring Trap Approval Order for Scotland and the UK and meets the welfare standards defined by the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS).
*** Total statistics start date from 1 August 2019.
We have made every possible adjustment to make sure as few other animals are caught while still ensuring the stoat eradication is successful. Close to 100% of the wooden trap safety boxes have had wire mesh and wire ties added to their small entrance holes (60x60mm) to reduce the size even further to around 60x40 mm. Some of the traps are in protected areas where birds that are very vulnerable to disturbance are nesting. So, the team has had to stop visiting the traps in those areas protected by Habitat Regulations Appraisals (HRA) for the time being, but these will be wire-tied as soon as possible. You can find out more about the HRAs by following this link.
While the wire-tied entrances to the trap boxes have reduced the numbers of other animals being caught, we are sorry to say that there still have been some, mainly young, animals finding their way into traps. We will continue to do what we can to progressively minimise this. We want to reassure everyone that these incidents remain incredibly rare in the context of the large number of traps and trap checks and will have no impact on the overall population of the other species being caught.
Since March 2021 through to end of May an additional 605 rats, 176 rabbits, 20 starlings, 53 mice, four hedgehogs, four frogs/toads and eight voles have been found in the trap boxes. There have been 5,703 trap checks over these months which means for example that 0.02% of the trap checks catch a vole. The only animal we cannot minimise catching is brown rats as they are a similar size and weight to stoats and are attracted to the same bait. If you have any concerns at all, please do not hesitate to contact us to talk through any questions you have.
To receive our next blog do remember to sign up for it on our new website www.orkneynativewildlife.org.uk
Until our next issue, you can keep up with our progress via our Facebook page, our website, our monthly column in the Orcadian newspaper and our blog.
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