Although stoats are commonly found on the Scottish mainland they are non-native to Orkney, and were first spotted in 2010. It might look cute but, this small, feisty predator has since spread across the isles, becoming a major cause for concern for Orkney’s native wildlife.
The introduction of a ground predator to islands such as Orkney, where there are no native ground predators, is very bad news for Orkney’s native species. Stoats are likely to prey on Orkney voles, reducing their population.
Bird species, such as the endangered hen harrier, and short-eared owl also prey on Orkney voles so their populations are likely to suffer too if they are having to compete with stoats for their food.
Stoats also pose a huge threat to Orkney’s many ground-nesting bird species. Orkney has several Special Protect Areas (SPAs) designated for their ground-nesting birds, including red-throated divers and Arctic terns. These sites are likely to be negatively affected unless the stoat population can be controlled.
Threatened bird species
Over the past few months, while we develop a bid for a full-scale eradication project, we have been working with a number of volunteer trappers across Orkney who are keen to do their bit to control the spread of this invasive mustelid. Stoats are least active, and therefore harder to trap, during the winter months but despite this we are already having successes and we hope this will continue as the weather improves. The data collected by volunteers will also help to inform the larger eradication project in terms of analysing trapping methods.
Find out more about stoats in Orkney on the SNH website