Welcome to the 84th 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 our blog and want to know more about the project, check out this blog and this one too as well as our website www.onwp.org.

Eradication progress

Since the New Year our trap teams have been joined by RSPB wardens helping us lay traps on areas designated for nature conservation protection, such as RSPB reserves. They have been out in all weather and across all terrains this month, extending our trapping network to eradicate the non-native stoat and protect our native wildlife. Here is Rebecca on Birsay Moors setting the GIS location for the trap database.

 So far, a total of 2160 traps have been laid in the trapping network with 1600 in east Mainland, Kirkwall and linked Islands alone. They are placed 250m apart to ensure the stoat’s home range is covered as much as possible, so you will see these more and more when you are out and about in the landscape.

As always, a huge thank you to the landowners who have allowed us to place traps on their land to help us protect Orkney’s native wildlife.

The trap network is currently only active in South Ronaldsay and the linked isles. To ensure the best impact on Orkney’s population of the invasive non-native stoat, we need to open all the traps at the same time. So, although we have a trap network laid in Deerness and Tankerness ready to go, we cannot open these traps until more land access is granted west of Kirkwall. To open and check traps in one section while the rest isn’t yet in place would also divert manpower away from positioning traps in the rest of the network.

To date the active network of 578 traps across South Ronaldsay and the linked isles has been checked an average of five times on a three-week rota since it was fully opened in October 2019. So far 37 stoats and 811 rats have been caught. The rat population has boomed with the wet weather this year, which is why our trap network is catching a fair few at a ratio of 24:1. This makes the many landowners who have given permission for us to position traps on their land quite happy at these results. This month's storms and floods have also made an impact with some boxes ending up on coastlines away from their original positions. Do let us know if you see any damaged trap boxes, or those that may look in odd positions, by contacting us directly on 01856 881451. Each box is identified by a unique number and we plot the position on GIS maps so can call up where they should be. 

Welcome to the team

Sam Ranscombe joined us in December 2019 as ONWP Community Engagement Officer, moving up from East Lothian where she worked as a countryside ranger.  She is keen to meet Orkney community groups and will be organising community events, co-ordinating volunteers and providing training. You can read more about her in this month’s VAO Orkney newsletter. Do get in touch with Sam if you would like her to visit your group, society or organisation, or if you would like to find out more about volunteering to help protect Orkney’s wildlife Samantha.ranscombe@rspb.org,uk or 01856 881449.

One of Sam’s first meetings was attending the Orkney Land Access Forum (OLAF), which is a partnership between Orkney land managers, agencies, land users and the community that meet to discuss land access issues.  Representatives include the National Farmers Union of Scotland, Destination Orkney, Orkney Islands Council and Scottish Land and Estates, working to encouraging residents and visitors to enjoy the countryside safely, sustainably and responsibly. This group is a great place to raise concerns about any land access and have open discussions to resolve any issues raised. For more details about OLAF visit https://www.orkneycommunities.co.uk/OLAF 

  We also welcomed back Zoe Edwards who re-joined us in January as ONWP Monitoring Officer, taking over the reins from Amy King who has left us to join the amazing work of the Gough Island restoration project in the South Atlantic. Zoe worked with us as in the workshop last summer helping with the trap build. She will coordinate wildlife surveys, including our very own Orkney vole.

The monitoring of Orkney’s wildlife to assess the state of these species will be happening across the islands and Orkney Mainland so she is keen to hear from any local communities who want to be involved. Look out for her in March for some planned special community island events. Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about monitoring and ways you can get involved. Zoe.edwards@rspb.org.uk or 01856 881454

Educating Orkney's young folk

 We’ve been busy visiting lots of schools on Orkney since the project began last year. So far 1793 pupils in schools, from South Ronaldsay across the linked isles to Kirkwall, as well as islands of Shapinsay, Rousay and Hoy, have learnt about Orkney’s native wildlife from Lindsey Taylor, our Education Officer. Lindsey’s classroom sessions explain why Orkney’s native wildlife is so special. She also explains why the stoat is such a threat to our precious wildlife and the steps we are taking to protect it.  Crucial the sessions demonstrate the traps and how everyone can stay safe around them. If you would like Lindsey to visit your school before Easter please get in touch lindsey.taylor@rspb.org.uk

She is also keen to hear from teachers who want to have a say on what our educational resources will look like. The next Primary Teacher Working Group is on Thursday 6 February from 4pm - 5pm. The secondary one is still being planned and it is not too late to register your interest.  We provide cake! Everyone is welcome so please get in touch.

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 emailing stoatsightings@rspb.org.uk or through the ‘Stoats in Orkney’ Facebook page. If you have any comments or concerns please contact us Orkney Native Wildlife Project on 01856 881451. You can also keep up-to-date with the project, please follow our Facebook page.