Stoats in their sights as Orkney crackdown begins
Creatures pose a serious threat to islands' internationally important wildlife.
A major project to eradicate stoats from Orkney can begin after securing £6m in funding.
The stoats, that arrived on the islands in 2010, pose a serious threat to Orkney's 'internationally important wildlife'.
The presence of stoats, which feed on small birds, eggs and mammals, threaten species such as the Orkney vole, which is found nowhere else in the world.
Seabirds, short-eared owls and red-throated divers are also at risk.
The stoats pose a further threat to Orkney's tourism industry, which relies on a thriving wildlife population.
The removal of stoats from Orkney involves recruiting a team of specially-skilled trappers and training the UK's first local team of stoat detection dogs.
The cash injection from the National Lottery and EU's LIFE programme will allow the team to set 16,000 traps.
The project, a partnership between RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and Orkney Islands Council, is set to be the largest scheme of its kind in the world.
Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, said: "This project is vital to safeguard the amazing wildlife in Orkney.
"The scale of the project is unprecedented; it's four times larger than any other stoat eradication attempted previously."
Mike Cantlay, the Scottish Natural Heritage chairman, added: "Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to the beauty and variety of our nature.
"With this important funding, and people and organisations from all backgrounds working together, we can help protect Orkney's internationally renowned wildlife and landscape for generations to come."