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Stoats first recorded

Stoat stood on a large flat boulder surrounded by heather and grass

Stoats first recorded in Orkney with sightings in South Ronaldsay and at Wideford Hill. It is unknown whether they were accidentally or deliberately introduced.


Sightings page started

A community-led Facebook group is created for people to report stoat sightings.


Attempts to remove stoats

As sightings increase, so do concerns and NatureScot initiate various trapping attempts with the help of volunteers. Despite some success in South Ronaldsay, not all stoats in Orkney are trapped and they subsequently spread.


Stoat impacts assessed

Flattened nest area in heather with 5 hen harrier chicks

NatureScot commisions a report looking at the potential impact of stoats on Orkney's world-renowned native wildlife. Published in 2015, it finds that stoats are a serious threat and an eradication is the only way to safeguard Orkney's wildlife.

Read the Report

Find out more

Is eradication possible?

Male hen harrier flies right to left carrying small branch

RSPB Scotland commissions a technical feasibility review and biosecurity plan by a world-leading expert from New Zealand. It concludes that eradication is feasible, but should be undertaken as soon as possible before stoats can spread to other islands.


Partnership formed

NatureScot and RSPB Scotland form a partnership to seek the funding needed for a project to prevent the devastating effects of the burgeoning stoat population on Orkney’s native wildlife. A Technical Advisory Group is created with global expertise including in eradications, gamekeeping and stoats.


Development funding found

The National Lottery Heritage Fund logo

The partnership receives funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for nine months to develop a project to protect Orkney's native wildlife from stoats including a trial of traps and baits and a community consultation.

The Orkney Native Wildlife Project is formed.


Biosecurity trapping begins

Map of Orkney with the mainland, South Ronaldsay and linked isles in green and five areas on mainland coast shaded orange

Biosecurity plan initiated with traps deployed in five coastal areas of Mainland Orkney to try to prevent stoats spreading to other islands


Consultation results

The community consultation shows overwhelming support for Orkney’s native wildlife:

  • 92% of respondents feel people have a duty to protect it,
  • 88% worry about the declines in native wildlife if stoats are not removed and
  • 84% support a full eradication.

Trapping trial results

Results show more stoats are caught in traps in moorland and coastal areas, the trap boxes with two entrances are better and eggs are the most effective bait in spring.


Biosecurity dog searches

Women kneels by small dog in garden

Full funding secured

  • Orkney Islands Council joins the project as a partner.
  • The project secures five years of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and EU LIFE supported by in kind and financial contributions from the RSPB, NatureScot and Orkney Islands Council. Find about more about the partnership.

Full project begins

Map of Orkney with the mainland, South Ronaldsay and linked isles in green, five areas on mainland coast shaded orange and a large curved orange arrow pointing from south to north west
  • The first eradication traps are laid across South Ronaldsay and the linked isles and in protected areas on the Mainland. Trap deployment then begins in other areas of Mainland from east to west.
  • Biosecurity trap networks are put in place across high-risk islands (those within stoat swimming distance of Mainland) to try to stop stoats spreading
  • Surveys for voles and breeding birds undertaken
  • First schools visits are carried out

Eradication starts

Wooden (trap) box positioned in field between a small stone and a grassy bank

Traps on South Ronaldsay and the linked isles are opened in autumn marking the start of active eradication trapping.


Covid curtails progress

  • Traps in East Mainland opened in early March. Deployment begins across West Mainland.
  • Covid-19 lockdown stops all project activities until restrictions are lifted. Final traps in East Mainland opened in July, meaning that a whole breeding season is essentially missed.
  • This allows the stoat population to rebound from initial trapping efforts.
  • Some volunteer trappers trained, but school visits, events and biosecurity workshops with communities still not possible.

Eradication expands

  • By March, all traps across West Mainland were open meaning active trapping was happening across the whole trap network for the first phase of the eradication.
  • With Covid-19 restrictions lifting, the project's first three stoat detection dogs arrived in spring ready to begin biosecurity checks for signs and scent of stoats on islands believed to be stoat-free this summer.
  • Covid-19 continued to effect other project activities particularly school visits, events and volunteer training.

Mop-up trial launched

In 2022, stoat numbers in some areas were reduced enough to begin trialling techniques for the mop-up phase of the eradication. Mop-up is the second stage of the eradication, when stoat numbers have been significantly reduced but the last remaining stoats still need to be removed. Community activities, wildlife monitoring and biosecurity all continue.

The results show that this more active trapping method, which involves using the dogs to identify stoat hot-spots, and responding to public sightings, is highly effective at removing stoats. However, it also shows that there are still too many stoats to move into mop-up.


Application for funding to extend

The project announces that it is applying for funding to extend for a further three years of eradication, followed by two years of monitoring. The need to extend is the result of the delays caused by covid, the unique conditions of carrying out an eradication in such a large and inhabited landscape, and the unusual behaviour of invasive stoats in Orkney. Other options like control, coupled with biosecurity for the stoat-free islands are considered, but they are ultimately deemed impractical and extremely expensive compared to completing the eradication.

With over 5,000 stoats removed, and a tried and tested methodology for finishing the job, the project announces that it is seeking funding from a range of sources.


Response trapping rolled out across West Mainland

With response trapping proving highly effective across the East Mainland and Linked South Isles, the project will expand this approach across the whole of the Orkney Mainland. The project will take on more dogs to facilitate this.


The eradication ends

With all stoats removed from Orkney, a major operation will be undertaken to remove the trap network. However, equipment hubs and biosecurity staff will be kept in place to keep Orkney stoat free and respond if a stoat appears within the two year monitoring period.


The two year monitoring period ends

With two years of monitoring at an end, and no stoat found, Orkney can officially be declared stoat free! If a stoat is found within this period, it is likely to be within the first year, based on comparable eradication projects. In this scenario, the stoat will be removed, and the clock restarted.



  • There is an active long-term biosecurity plan in place to prevent re-invasion by stoats this includes continued reporting of potential sightings and the ability to respond to potential incursions.

  • Wildlife monitoring continues to ensure the health and status of Orkney's incredible native wildlife is known and it can be protected from future threats.


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