An ambitious £3million plan to completely eradicate predatory non-native stoats in Orkney has moved a step closer after winning overwhelming public support.
A cull aims to protect the island’s wildlife for future generations – with Orkney’s nature highlighted as one of main attractions for visiting tourists, who generate over £30million a year to the local economy.
Almost 900 people responded to a questionnaire put out by the Orkney Native Wildlife Project – led by Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB Scotland – with 84% supporting total eradication of the nuisance creature, which has grown significantly in population since arriving on the islands in 2010.
SNH chairman Mike Cantlay said: “I am delighted to see our work on this project in Orkney getting such a significant vote of approval from the people of Orkney.
“In Orkney, the rich and unique wildlife is one of the key features which attract visitors to these magnificent islands, so there is also a strong economic reason for safeguarding it for future generations”.
Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, added: “Orkney is an incredibly important place for wildlife and as such eradicating stoats has been identified as the most urgently required island restoration project in the UK.”
In July last year the project was awarded £64,600 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to refine its plans and carry out consultation before applying for a full grant of over £3million to deliver the cull.
Funding has been earmarked by HLF, while an application to the European Union LIFE scheme has also been submitted.
If the bids are successful, tendering for the full-scale eradication contract is scheduled to be undertaken in the autumn, with trapping commencing during January 2019.
Traps will be set every 250 metres across the Orkney Mainland and linked isles.