Welcome to the seventy-first 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.

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

Today we have been interviewing for the Senior Research Assistant and then we will be interviewing for the three Research Assistants. These roles will be doing the wildlife monitoring for waders and voles this spring and summer.

Five of the new trapping staff started on Monday, Graham, Anita, and Bethan who are new to the project and Carmen and Rebecca who as you know had been working with the project as research assistants for the trapping trial. The other Eradication Operations Manager, Jason, starts on Monday and the rest of the trappers are due to start on 4 March.

Amy is still splitting her time between securing survey locations and securing land access permissions, particularly focussing on those areas. If you are happy for this important wildlife monitoring to place on your land, please email ONWP.landaccess@gmail.com as soon as you can.

In other news, we have a tender out for the supply of six conservation detection dogs and the associated training and support of dog-handler teams. There has been quite a bit of interest and made the news here. The tender is open until 28 February and can be viewed at www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk/search/show/search_view.aspx?ID=JAN343612

These dogs will play a key role in the project. Stoats are notoriously difficult to detect particularly when they are at low densities. Therefore, the only way to be is to use specially-trained conservation detection dogs, to systematically search for signs and the scent of stoats.

The dogs and their handlers will be crucial towards the end of the eradication, known as the mop-up phase, to search and pinpoint areas where stoats remain so that trapping efforts to catch them can be targeted and intensified. They also have a key role to play in the biosecurity measures that will be implemented during the eradication and for ongoing checks to ensure, once eradicated stoats cannot return to the islands. To do this they will carry out regular checks for the presence of stoats on ‘high-risk’ islands (those where stoats are not currently present but could swim to), be used to determine presence in suspected incursions, and to carry out preventative checks of loads and bulky materials transported to, and within, the Orkney archipelago.

You’ll remember that the high-risk islands were checked last summer by Macca and his handler Ange who had been contracted to play an important role in the project ahead of the eradication.

  Macca, a stoat detection dog, working in Rousay in 2018

The biosecurity and incursion trap checks are also continuing.


Trapping Trial

The report from the trapping trial is still being finalised. Thanks again to all the landowners that took part. Please do feedback to us about any ways we can improve how we worked with you for the future. We will be in contact with everyone again soon to get new permissions in place for the eradication trapping.


Biosecurity trap network

Mainland: Marina was in Rendall on Monday with Heather. The weather started off glorious but then turned very rainy in the afternoon. The traps hadn’t caught anything.

Today they have both been out showing the new trappers, Graham, Bethan and Anita, the traps in Evie, doing some hands-on training and checking them along with Sarah, Carmen and Rebecca.

The weather was lovely in the east of Evie where Carmen was showing Graham the ropes. Their traps had caught just one rat, but they enjoyed blue skies, singing skylarks and spotting plenty of fulmars and an otter scat as they walked along the coast.

High-risk islands: Shapinsay is not due for a while, but Graemsay will be checked in the next few weeks.

The trap network on Rousay will be put out as soon as weather and more pressing demands allow.  



Incursion responses

Hoy: We haven’t checked the Hoy or South Walls traps this week due to new staff starting, but we will be checking them again soon. It’s really important that folk in Hoy and South Walls remain vigilant and report any potential stoat sightings immediately.

South Walls: See above.


Answering your concerns…

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 701670, 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