Welcome to the forty-eighth 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

Ange and Macca spent two weeks visiting Shapinsay (from the 6th to the 17th August). Their task was to determine whether stoats had made their way to the island from Mainland Orkney following several sightings of stoat-like animals that have been reported since November 2017 and that remain unconfirmed despite numerous traps and monitoring devices being put in place.

Shapinsay is quite a large island for one person and one little dog’s nose to cover, but they did cover the island reasonably well in their time there. Thankfully, they didn’t encounter any definitive sign or scent of stoat presence over the ground they searched which is positive news in that we know we don’t have an established population.

However, as we are still receiving sightings and there were a few areas they couldn’t fully check, our confidence in the presence or absence of an individual stoat roaming the island, is not as good as we would like. So, as a precaution, we are keeping the incursion response traps and monitoring in place for now. And with some follow up visits by Macca and Ange, we hope to get better confidence over the next few months.

Ange and Macca would like to thank everybody they met on Shapinsay for your good stories, smiles and hospitality. They are now on Rousay, where they have found nothing in their first few days. More news next week.

For the important work Macca and Ange are doing to be successful, we are still working hard to identify landowners to get land access permissions organised, both for the searches and traps in the future.

We are eager for folk who own land on Wyre, Flotta and Hoy, who we haven’t spoken to yet, to get in touch as soon as possible by emailing ONWP.LandAccess@gmail.com

 

The extended trapping trial traps are now all closed for maintenance and will be reopened in September for the autumn phase of the trial. Carmen and Rebecca are busy carrying out the trap maintenance and checks of both the traps we’ve collected and those still in the field. However, they were concerned to find that two traps positioned on a road verge had been tampered with this week. One of the traps had been reactivated, which could have been very dangerous for the team, and another had its latch broken and was left open (photo below). We are really disappointed as not only do we now have to do additional maintenance and checks on the damaged trap, but we are also concerned that we will need to focus unanticipated resources on a more secure system for ‘locking’ the trap boxes in the future. Both now, and for the eradication to be a success, it is essential that traps are only operated by trained staff or volunteers. We appreciate your assistance with this.

  

In happier news, we would like to introduce you to the new SNH trapper, Marina Gray, who started with the project on Monday.

She said: “I am passionate about nature and conservation. I have worked in many different projects with the aim of protecting habitats and species, from coastal grassland and moorland habitats in Cornwall to endemic ladybirds in the Azores islands. I have worked protecting mammals such as grizzly bears and endangered Vancouver Island marmots in Canada and recently worked on a research conservation project on red squirrels in Scotland. I am very excited now to contribute with my experience to conserve the very important native wildlife in Orkney that very much needs all our joined help.”

Heather and Amy are busy showing her the ropes this weeks but plans are that she will be helping Heather with the Incursion Responses as well as providing support to Carmen and Rebecca. She will also take over responsibility for the trap inventory which tracks what kit we have out and where it is.

 

Orkney Mainland Predator Invasion Biosecurity Project

We are still waiting for the latest data from our contractors, but will update you once we know more. We have now taken over the responsibility for these traps.

 

Incursion responses

Shapinsay: Heather will be on Shapinsay tomorrow to do the latest trap checks. She also wanted to share some camera trap footage from Shapinsay last month of several birds (meadow pipit, juvenile blackbird and wren) all checking out the same trap.

We also want to say a big thanks to all the landowners who have made Ange and Macca feel so welcome. As you read above they didn’t find any confirmed signs or scent of stoats, but we are leaving the traps out as a precaution until they can get back to do some additional checks.

 

Hoy: Heather and Marina are in Hoy today to finish the latest round of trap checks. So far, no stoats have been caught. We have put a few extra traps out on the link between Hoy and South Walls after receiving a report of a possible stoat sighting in South Walls, but we will know more when Macca and Ange visit next month. With that in mind, it is incredibly important to get them access permission for as much of Hoy as possible and Amy has been following up with landowners.

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 HUGE 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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