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Timeline

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.

2010

Sightings page started

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

2011

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.

2012

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

2014

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.

2015

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.

2016

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.

2017

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

2017

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.
2018

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.

2018

Biosecurity dog searches

Women kneels by small dog in garden
2018

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.
2018

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
2019

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.

2019

Covid curtails progress

  • Traps in East Mainland opened in early March. Deployment begins across West Mainland.
  • Covid-19 lockdown stops all project activities until June when trap deployment and checks can resume. Final traps in East Mainland opened in July.
  • Some volunteer trappers trained, but school visits, events and biosecurity workshops with communities still not possible.
  • By the end of the year, all traps for the first phase of the eradication are in place across Mainland Orkney, South Ronaldsay and the linked isles.
2020

This year

  • By March, all traps across West Mainland are open meaning active trapping is 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 are due to arrive in spring ready to begin biosecurity checks for signs and scent of stoats on islands which are currently believed to be stoat-free this summer.
  • Covid-19 continues to effect other project activities particularly school visits, events and volunteer training. It is hoped that some of these activities will resume later in the year.
2021

Predict move to mop up

In 2022, stoat numbers should be reduced enough to move to the mop-up phase of the eradication. The mop-up phase is when the last remaining stoats still need to be found before the eradication is a success. Community activities, wildlife monitoring and biosecurity continue.

2022

Eradication over?

2024 marks the end of the project. Education, monitoring and community activities are completed, stoats are eradicated from Orkney and the legacy phase, including ongoing biosecurity to prevent stoats returning, begins.

2024

Legacy

  • 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.

2025

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