The results of a trapping trial to remove non-native Stoats from Orkney in order to protect the archipelago's vulnerable native wildlife have been revealed.

The Orkney Native Wildlife Project, which is a partnership between Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and RSPB Scotland with support from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund for development, aims to protect Orkney's native wildlife by removing Stoats, an invasive, non-native predator that was first recorded in Orkney as recently as 2010.

Since then, the population has increased and is now fully established and widely distributed throughout Mainland Orkney, Burray and South Ronaldsay.

Stoats pose a very serious threat to Orkney's native wildlife, particularly Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and other ground-nesting birds such as Red-throated Diver, Arctic Tern and Eurasian Curlew, as well as the endemic subspecies of Common Vole, known as 'Orkney Vole'.

eurasian curlew

The Orkney Native Wildlife Project carried out the trial as part of a nine-month development phase that was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of research aimed at optimising the technical aspects of a planned eradication. This will be the world's largest Stoat eradication to date and a first for Europe.

In December 2017, lethal humane traps were put in place at three trial sites west of Kirkwall: Grimbister, Hobbister and Wideford. 

The main discovery was that the density of Stoats in the three trial areas appears to be high compared to other islands around the world where the species' densities have been estimated during eradications. 

A subset of the trials will continue in the same areas over the summer in order to gain data on bait preference and the number of Stoats caught in different seasons.

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