These snippets are an update on the Orkney Native Wildlife Project. If you are new to these snippets and want to know more about the project, check out this blog and this one too.

Tracking tunnels

 Tracking tunnels – also known as footprint tunnels - are used to detect or monitor the presence of mammals in an area by identifying their footprints. They are very simply constructed, with a long tunnel about 10 cm high and 80 cm long, and ours have a wooden base. In the tunnel are placed ink pads, special paper and bait to attract the mammal we want to monitor.

The animal walks over the ink pads to reach the bait, leaving their footprints on the paper, which can be used to identify which mammal is present.

Our workshop team constructed 590 of these tunnels as part of our biosecurity measures on the islands. These were put in place in November on Hoy and Rousay and a review of the inkpads has so far shown no sign of stoats.

Digitising the Landowner access maps

As the project really starts to get moving, we need a way to record digitally each trap location, history and where we do and do not have permission to place traps. To help with this, we’ve developed some new mapping software but there’s some work to do before it’s running smoothly.

First, on a base layer map of Orkney, we have a template with the outlines of what we think are all the farms in the region. Then our small team, Zofia, Carmen, Beth and Sarah, link up the landowner’s details, permission and trap locations, with the farm outlines on the map.

Only it’s not quite that simple. As we are using new software, there are still some elements that need fine-tuning, so the development team is working on this in the background. Additionally, the outlines from our template do not always match the actual locations of land boundaries, meaning we need to do a bit of editing and adjustment.

However, it’s worth the effort. It will mean that our trapping team can log their trap visits and check these on-the-go, plus they will always be able to know where they are or aren’t allowed to walk, place traps, bring our lovely tracking puppies and carry out surveying.

Eradication progress

 As always, a huge thank you to everyone who is working with us by generously allowing us to place our traps on their land. We couldn’t do this without your support. Nearly 700 landowners have generously given us their support with land access. Our trap teams have now reached the outskirts of Kirkwall. Please do keep us updated with your stoat sightings. We use every bit of information to help us with operations.

To date, the operational trapping network in South Ronaldsay and the linked isles has caught 26 stoats and 506 rats so far. The rat population has boomed with the wet weather this year which is why our trap network is catching a fair few making many landowners who have given permission for us to position traps on their land quite happy.

We will be closed for the Christmas holidays and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year. Our team will come back after the festive period and continue to lay trap boxes in Orkney’s Special Protection Areas and Special Conservation Areas, such as the moors across Orkney Mainland and Yesnaby.

 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.

Remember, if you have any comments or concerns please contact us at 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.

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