Welcome to the 81st 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

It has been a busy few months here in which we welcomed the first of the hundreds of trap boxes into the workshop to be calibrated. We have ordered 19,292 traps direct from the supplier for the 10,000 or so trap housings for the duration of the five year project.

We also welcomed the Technical Advisory Group. These experts in their field came to see how the project has developed since the funding was awarded and to give advice for the coming months. Their visit was recorded in The Orcadian or you can listen to the interview on Radio Orkney.

Biosecurity trap network

This month we finished placing biosecurity traps on Wyre, a total of 18 traps that will help protect the island from stoat incursion. These traps are continually set with a bait of food and scent lure and will be checked monthly, along with traps on nearby Rousay.

Traps help us detect (and intercept) stoats on an island but are not infallible. Another method of stoat detection is monitoring tunnels, a simple tunnel with ink and paper inside, on which stoats leave their unmistakable footprints as they walk through. In just one week, our workshop team constructed nearly 600 of these tunnels as a method of detecting stoats on the islands.

 Biosecurity Officer Chris Bell checking a trap

 Chris Lewis on Shapinsay

Last week we also held our first biosecurity-related community event, on Shapinsay. It was well attended – despite competition from a new gym opening and the arrival of Chris Lewis and Jet on the Orkney leg of their tour! – and produced some fantastic ideas for how biosecurity might be best managed on the island.

If you want to know more about biosecurity, please contact Chris Bell directly on 01856 881448, or by emailing chris.bell@rspb.org.uk.

Vole surveying

Since we advertised vole survey training for volunteers, we have completed our first training day. Thank you to all of you who have shown interest; it is great to start building a team of people so we can cover as many sites as possible over the next few years. Everyone who attended the training was quick to master the methodology, and the rain held off so we could complete the whole survey area together, ready for everyone to run their own surveys in the Autumn. An enjoyable morning had by all!

 Vole surveying

There is still the opportunity to get involved in the future, as there will be another round of surveys and training in the Spring. You do not need any previous experience, as we will provide training, but you do need to be physically fit (surveys involve walking over mixed terrain), enjoy being outdoors, and be keen to learn more about native wildlife! If this interests you, send Amy a message and she can give you more details!

Email Amy at amy.king@rspb.org.uk or tel. 01856 881454/07719 991096


Workshop team

Our four new members of the workshop team, Robbie, Zoe, Robbie and Sarah, arrived in early August, coinciding with the arrival of the first set of trap boxes. It was a bit of a baptism of fire, but they soon rattled through over 1,000 traps in the first month and have become a very efficient team.


So far, the boxes have all been double-traps, but they are lighter than former examples due to us choosing to source sustainable marine-ply wood from Spain. Twenty-percent of the traps will be single ones, which will be used interchangeably with the double traps.

The traps and boxes need some adjustments before they are ready to put out. The main task is to calibrate the traps to a very specific weight. An Orkney vole – one of the animals we are seeking to safeguard – is often heavier than its UK mainland cousins and can weigh up to 85g. We therefore want to calibrate the traps to 100g in order to prevent the capture of wildlife other than stoats and rats (which we can't calibrate the traps to not catch due to their similar weight to stoats).

 Traps in the workshop

We use metal weights to measure the load on the trap plate and modify the mechanism if the trap does not operate at 100g in the first instance. It can involve some fine-tuning but it is important that we work accurately. Once the boxes are ready, they are stacked, ready for the trapper team to deploy in the field.

It may be that the four are now the world experts in calibrating the DoC 2000 traps. They like to call themselves ‘precision engineers’ and we definitely think they are right!


Trap team update

The trap team have been busy completing the first phase of deployment of traps on South Ronaldsay and its linked isles. The first check of these is now underway, with deployment also starting in East Mainland – specifically Deerness. Over the coming month, work will continue across Tankerness/St Andrews and Holm and it is anticipated that the trap rollout will reach the environs of Kirkwall and St Ola by early November.

Biosecurity traps across mainland are still being checked regularly, with 12 stoats caught in Mainland Orkney in recent weeks.


Answering your concerns…

We would really appreciate folk who own land and are happy for wildlife monitoring and/or trapping to take place getting in touch. Please email ONWP.landaccess@gmail.com or call us on 01856 881453 as soon as you can.

Don’t forget to keep reporting any sightings of stoats (dead or alive), as soon as possible, by contacting our Monitoring Officer directly on 01856 881454, by emailing north@nature.scot or through the ‘Stoats in Orkney’ Facebook page.

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

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