Welcome to the 76th stoat snippet!

These snippets are an update on the Orkney Native Wildlife 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

Apologies that we haven’t had a snippet for a while. We have been busy welcoming new members to the extended team and settling into our new home in Kirkwall. We have also spent a lot of time responding to different queries.

You may have heard about the changes in the Orkney-specific licence arrangements which is led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). As well as this SNH announcement on 10 May the first meeting of the newly reconstituted goose management forum has been scheduled for 4 June 2019. In the meantime, our project has experienced a few complications as some of the larger land-owning farmers are not willing to give us access to land until something is done about the geese.

We do understand goose control is a massive issue for farmers and so the project partners are doing all they can to resolve the situation. However, our project is very limited in what it can do to help with geese, as our funding is specifically for protecting Orkney’s native wildlife by eliminating stoats. The funding for the project never came from a budget that was designated for goose management. The chart below shows that much of the funding comes from grants awarded by EU Life and The National Lottery Heritage Fund following many years of development work.

We trust this will encourage individual farmers to work with us and allow the critical land access we need in a partnership to ensure the future of our native wildlife for the benefit of all Orcadian communities, businesses and wildlife.

For more details on the goose management forum and being a part of it contact SNH on 01463 701670 or the Orkney NFUS committee.

In the meantime, we would really appreciate folk who own land and are happy for wildlife monitoring and/or trapping to take place get in touch with us. Please email ONWP.landaccess@gmail.com or call us on 01856 881451 as soon as you can.

Biosecurity trap network

Mainland: Since our last Stoat Snippet eight stoats were caught in the trap network. Some traps in Evie and Rendall were re-calibrated in addition to other trap-checking in the field. Some traps have also been laid near the Churchill Barriers to trial trap placements here. The photo shows Brian with his loaded backpack of traps near where the little terns are currently nesting. We have installed a few cameras to monitor the nests for any stoat activity too. The local schools have designed the warning posters, so walkers can be aware of the breeding season to give the little terns a chance. 

High-risk islands: The team rearranged 17 of the traps to set up a biosecurity network as a first line of defence should a stoat swim over to Shapinsay. The traps now line the south shore of the island. Nothing was caught in this last trap check. The team also spotted a golden plover, as well as a curlew nest next to one of our traps.

Incursion response

We received a report of a stoat being seen on Hoy. As soon as we heard the news our monitoring officer, Amy, gathered all the information on the sighting. A stoat on Hoy would be extremely serious. The terrain and wildness of the Island would really hamper an efficient eradication, so the possible sighting of a stoat here is taken very seriously. The operations team went into action following this potential sighting and deployed six traps on the road just south of Lyness. The team also deployed six traps on land where the landowner is keen to manage the traps himself. Our trappers, Brian and Stuart, tracked for stoat signs but found none.

As the weather has picked up so has the monitoring team activity, taking advantage of the fine conditions to collect baseline data on species-at-risk for the project specifically the Orkney vole and ground-nesting waders.

Finally, we welcomed Chris Bell who joined the ONWP this month as Biosecurity Officer. He got his hands dirty in the field in the first week helping the re-positioning of traps in Rousay. Chris has lived here before as RSPB warden on Papa Westray. He returns to Orkney from New Zealand to share his experience in invasive species management and island biosecurity.


Answering your concerns…

Remember, if you have any comments or concerns please contact north@nature.scot or orkney@rspb.org.uk, or telephone Orkney Native Wildlife Project on 01856 881451.

Don’t forget to keep reporting any sightings of stoats (dead or alive), as soon as possible, by contacting our biosecurity team directly on 01856 881451 ext 456, by emailing north@nature.scot or through the ‘Stoats in Orkney’ Facebook page.

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