Welcome to the forty-fifth stoat snippet!

These snippets are a short update on the Orkney Native Wildlife Project and the Orkney Mainland Predator Invasion Biosecurity Project, as well as addressing any concerns that folk have raised with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and RSPB Scotland.

If you are new to these snippets and want to know more about the project, check out this blog.

Orkney Native Wildlife Project

As you will probably have seen or heard, the big news this week is that a special stoat detection dog has arrived from New Zealand.

 

Macca’s job over the next three months, along with his handler Ange, is to systematically search the high-risk islands surrounding Orkney Mainland for the scent and signs of stoats. High-risk islands are those that are within a swimmable distance of islands where stoats are established – stoats can swim considerable distances (at least 3 km) over open water which seems astonishing until you remember they are related to otters.

Stoats are not native to Orkney and pose a significant threat to Orkney’s internationally important wildlife. Since they were first reported in 2010, they have spread and established across Orkney Mainland and the linked isles. There have been a handful of sightings reported on other non-linked islands too including Hoy and, most recently, Shapinsay. We’ve deployed traps and motion-activated cameras to try to confirm whether stoats are present on these other islands.

 

However, stoats are notoriously difficult to detect particularly when they are at low densities and the most efficient and effective way to confirm presence and absence is to use a specially trained detection dog. There are currently no stoat detection dogs in the UK, which is why we have brought Macca over from New Zealand.

It is essential to try to determine if we have stoats on these other islands before the eradication begins for two reasons: we need to know if we have a significant issue on these islands that might require an additional eradication programme, but most importantly we need to know if there are stoats on these islands because, if there is, they could then re-invade the Orkney Mainland or connected islands following a successful eradication.

Please join us in keeping your fingers crossed that Macca and Ange find nothing during their searches.

 

We are still working hard to identify landowners to get land access permissions organised both for Macca and Ange to search areas but also for traps in the future. We’re asking all landowners that we haven’t spoken to so far, even if that land is only your garden, to get in touch with us by emailing ONWP.LandAccess@gmail.com.  

We’ll reply as soon as we can, although we are prioritising the identified ‘high-risk’ islands within stoat swimming distance of Mainland – Hoy, Rousay, Shapinsay, Flotta, Wyre, Graemsay etc – first, so Macca can do his critical work, so it might take a while.

We want to say a HUGE thanks to everyone who has been in touch so far. If you’ve already been in touch and want to help more, please encourage others – your friends, family and neighbours – to drop us an email too. Thanks!

 

Carmen and Rebecca have now finished sixth round of checks for the extended trapping trial but no further stoats were caught. The traps are now all closed for maintenance and will be reopened in September for the autumn phase of the trial. As well as trap maintenance, Carmen and Rebecca will be processing the data from the summer part of the trial.

We have just a few of the original traps left to bring in and will be bringing in the rest of the cameras and monitoring tubes soon too.

 

Orkney Mainland Predator Invasion Biosecurity Project

Our contractors have completed their final round of checks. We should have the full report in the next week or so. Rebecca, Carmen and the new SNH trapper will take over responsibility for the checks of these traps from August.

 

Incursion responses

Shapinsay: Heather was out to check the Shapinsay traps last Friday. No stoats have been caught so far. Heather is on holiday for the next two weeks to run the annual North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival, so Carmen will be out today to do the next checks.

Then, excitedly, Macca and Ange will be going out to Shapinsay on Monday. They will be staying there for two weeks to systematically search for signs of stoats. Ange will be contacting landowners that have given permission for her to access their land to arrange visits. Residents and visitors have an opportunity to meet Ange and Macca at a special event on Friday 10 August. Folk can drop by RSPB Scotland’s Mill Dam nature reserve any time between 12.30 and 2.30 pm and there will also be working demonstrations at 1 pm and 2 pm.

Hoy: The latest trap checks in the north of Hoy are now complete, the others will be finished once Heather is back from holidays. So far, we’ve had no evidence of stoats and no stoats have been caught in the traps.

In the meantime, we are making progress getting access permissions but we’d really appreciate your help to finish this off.

If you own land in South Walls and Hoy, even if it is just your garden, and you haven’t heard from us, please get in touch by email.

And a big thanks to everyone who has given their support so far.

 

Answering your concerns…

Remember, if you have any comments or concerns please contact north@snh.gov.uk or orkney@rspb.org.uk, or by calling RSPB Scotland on 01856 850176 or SNH on the number below.

Once again, don't forget to keep reporting any sightings of stoats, as soon as possible, to SNH by calling 01856 886163, by emailing north@snh.gov.uk or through the ‘Stoats in Orkney’ Facebook page.

And to keep up-to-date with the project, please follow our Facebook page.

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