Welcome to the forty-ninth 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 have been on Rousay since 18th August and the map below shows the tracks they walked up until the 26th (Sunday). If you click it, you can see it more clearly.

 

They have found no signs of stoats, which is great news. But they have made some other interesting discoveries and Ange has been mapping these to help us understand the environment on Rousay and the predator and prey distribution across the landscape.

She has noted (from their signs) that otters are travelling a long way inland and (from feathers in their scats) that they are eating birds, most probably ducks. She has also been marking where there are lots of rabbits as they are not equally spread across the island and in their preferred areas they seem to be present in high numbers. Lots of rabbits means lots of food.

Macca and Ange also discovered a den of cats quite close to where the stoat sighting was reported in July last year. Unlike the cats they encountered on Shapinsay, these appeared to be much more feral in their behaviour. They were living in a rabbit warren (so underground) and cleaning it out just like a stoat would do. One cat was a dark grey tabby, and quite small; the other was a short-haired light ginger with a white bib and white tip on its tail. The ginger cat was about the size of a small ferret and could easily be mistaken for a stoat if not seen clearly. So, the plot thickens.

Ange and Macca have found Rousay to be a really nice island and were treated on Monday to very close views of both a short-eared owl and a hen harrier. They hope to be finished today so we should have a further update next week.

They are hoping to get out to Wyre tomorrow, so Ange will be calling landowners today to confirm details.

Then they will head to Graemsay early next week before heading to Hoy on 6th after Mac’s first vet appointment (he must jump through quite a few hoops to be allowed re-entry to NZ).

 

Carmen has been on holiday this week, but Rebecca has been continuing with trap maintenance and preparing for the next stage of the extended trapping trial which will start next week. Along with reopening the single and double set DOC traps, the trial will now include Goodnature traps set up with stoat lure and cameras to watch interaction. You might remember (from Snippet 17) that we put these traps out before but without the stoat lure as it was unavailable. So, it will be good to test stoat interaction with these now we have the lure. The traps will not be active as they are currently not legal for use on stoats in Scotland. However, as these traps are legal to use in England and Wales though and we expect that they will be added to the Scottish Spring Trap Approval Order this year, we want to try to gauge their effectiveness in Orkney. This will be done by using cameras on the traps.

The Goodnature traps look very different to the DOC traps (comparison photos below). They also work differently. When active, the Goodnature A24 traps use a CO2-powered piston to strike the skull of a stoat killing it instantly. It then resets itself and can deliver 24 piston strikes using one canister of CO2.

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. Some of the traps were relocated by the team with support from Ange last Friday based on the new sightings.

As you read last week, Ange and Macca 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 were out in Hoy and South Walls checking traps and cameras on Wednesday and Thursday this week. So far, no stoats have been caught but we hope to get a clearer picture when Ange and Macca visit. They aim to start work at the end of next week and, due to the size and nature of the landscape, will probably be in Hoy for a month.

It is incredibly important for the future of Orkney’s wildlife that permission is granted for Ange and Macca to check as much of the island as possible.

So, 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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