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