Welcome to the sixty-seventh 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 and this one too.

 

 

 

Orkney Native Wildlife Project

 

All interviews are now complete and we are continuing to contact the preferred candidates and organise the paperwork to get contracts issued. Most of the 19 roles are now confirmed so we should be able to start introducing the new team in the coming weeks, which is very exciting.

 

In fact, we can start today. We’re delighted that Amy King, who was the Project Development Officer during the development phase, has stayed in Orkney and has already started as the Monitoring Officer.

Amy at the Mart in Dec 2017 

She’ll continue to work on the land access permission in the short-term, particularly focussing on areas where wildlife surveys need to take place this spring. If you are happy for this important wildlife monitoring to place on your land, please email ONWP.landaccess@gmail.com to help us get permissions in place as quickly as we can.

In the meantime, the biosecurity and incursion trap checks continue, as does the other preparation work to secure the traps and trap housings needed.

The tender for the 10,260 wooden housings closed last Monday and we have finished reviewing the bids. There is an obligatory 10-day standstill period after the preferred bid is chosen. So, it might be a few more weeks before can announce the successful bid.

The next big task is to make sure we have land access permissions in place. A letter has been sent out by project partner OIC to many landowners this week. We would love to hear from you by email if possible at ONWP.landaccess@gmail.com as soon as you can.

 

Trapping Trial

We would also like to thank all the landowners that took part in the summer and autumn trials that have sent feedback forms to us. If you have received a letter and haven’t yet filled in your form, we would still like to receive them. We will be sending out letters to folk involved in the trapping trials last winter very soon too. We are also happy to receive feedback at any time by email or phone so we know where we can make improvements.

 

Biosecurity trap network

Mainland:

I forgot mention in the last snippet that Lindsey had checked the Kirkwall traps that week. She will be back checking them again tomorrow. She also checked Rendall last week where she found one big male stoat in the traps. She also checked Stromness last Friday, but all the traps were empty. She checked the Evie east traps on Monday.

When Rebecca was checking the Evie traps the week before last, she found just one rat in all the traps checked. She checked another of the Evie areas but the traps hadn’t caught anything. Heather was checking another area of the Evie traps and one ermine (white coat) stoat was caught, surprisingly the traps hadn’t caught any rats. While, Carmen checked the Orphir traps, which had caught no stoats or rats. She enjoyed the walk, despite the cold and hail, and saw lots of snipe, oystercatchers and curlews along the shore along with a shag, and a female hen harrier.

 

Shag

High-risk islands: The Graemsay trap checks were checked on Friday by Rebecca, but hadn’t caught anything.  

This round of the Shapinsay checks were finished last week by Heather. No stoats were caught, but there were 17 rats caught in the traps. Please continue to report any potential sightings of stoats as soon as you can as stoats could arrive at any time and could move between the islands and Mainland too.

We are also planning to get Biosecurity traps out on Rousay in the next week or two. This will involve approximately 25 traps spread along the SW coast of Rousay that’s nearest to Mainland. We are hoping to do it next Wednesday but this depends on making sure that we can contact all the landowners ahead of this and that the weather improves.

 

Incursion responses

Hoy: The traps in Hoy are being checked today and South Walls are due to be checked again tomorrow.

Sunrise from the boat this morning

South Walls: See above update.

 

Answering your concerns…

Aren’t stoats good because they kill rats?

Several people have been in touch with the SNH office in Kirkwall to ask whether stoats are beneficial because they will help to reduce the rat population in Orkney? While, a stoat could take a rat, they are much more likely to take prey that is easier to catch such as the Orkney vole. Therefore, stoats are unlikely to result in a significant reduction in the number of rats but will certainly cause a reduction in the number of Orkney voles and other native wildlife.

 

Can you provide me with traps to catch stoats on my land?

By far the most common question we are being asked is whether we can give people traps or whether people should buy their own traps to deal with the stoats on their land. We do not have any traps available to give to people and we are not planning to give traps to people to run independently from the project. However, we will be looking for people to help manage parts of the trap network on their land that will be deployed for the eradication. These traps will be placed at regular intervals and should be in the vicinity of most people’s land.

If anyone wishes to take action on their own before that, it is possible to buy traps like the ones that we are using. However, we would encourage people to bear in mind that trapping done in isolation is unlikely to significantly reduce the number of stoats and will end up with more individual stoats being killed overall. If you chose to purchase your own traps, please remember that you will be responsible for ensuring they are safe and legal.

The traps we are using are DOC200s which were the most effective, humane lethal traps available to trial and buy last year. (There has since been a revision of the list of legal traps giving additional options). The only UK supplier of the DOC200 traps is a company Perdix. They supply both traps and trap housings. However, we would not recommend using the standard housing they come in because it does not minimise the risk of catching other wildlife or your neighbour’s curious pets. We can share the design for trap housings that we would recommend which would have to be purchased/made separately. We hope this extra information helps folk to decide what they wish to do and if anyone would like to assist with trapping later this year, please get in touch.

Remember, if you have any comments or concerns please contact north@nature.scot or orkney@rspb.org.uk, or call 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 01463 701669, by emailing north@nature.scot 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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