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£6 million stoat project to bring more than 20 jobs to Orkney

Those behind the stoat eradication project have said the predator poses a major threat to Orkney’s native wildlife.

A major £6 million, five-year project aimed at fighting Orkney’s stoat problem and protecting our native wildlife is about to begin — a project that will also create over 20 jobs, it has been announced today, Thursday.

The project will see approximately 10,000 traps distributed across Mainland Orkney and the connected islands along with a network of “biosecurity traps” around the coastlines of other islands.

The project won both National Lottery and European financial support. Those behind it say that it will employ the equivalent of 22 full-time staff in 26 roles, along with offering opportunities for student projects and training roles as it goes along.

The new roles will be a project manager, an administrator, a team of 12 to look after the eradication trapping and a team of four, including three stoat-detecting dog handlers responsible for preventing stoats spreading and securing the islands against re-invasion.

There will also be a team of four looking after community interaction, with part of the project including the production of regular updates, running events and training sessions, delivering schools sessions, managing the “citizen science”, monitoring elements of the project and supporting people to get involved.

Finally, there will be four part-time research assistants to analyse all the data that’s collected by the project, schools, volunteers and others.

Orkney is home to internationally important populations of wildlife. Despite the combined land area of Orkney’s 70 islands accounting for less than 1 per cent of the UK, the islands are home to more than a fifth of the UK’s breeding hen harriers, nationally and internationally important numbers of seabirds and are one of the few places in the UK in which waders such as curlews are still a common breeding species.

Like many islands, Orkney has no native ground predators. Stoats are native to the UK mainland, but not to Orkney, where they were first reported in 2010.

They are very accomplished predators and feed on small birds, eggs and small mammals. The presence of stoats in Orkney, threatens the Orkney vole, which is found nowhere else in the world, along with many birds including hen harrier, short-eared owls, red-throated divers, waders and seabirds, many of which support the local wildlife tourism industry.

For more on this story see page six of today’s edition of The Orcadian.