Orkney has a stoat problem, and Macca the Fox Terrier has been flown in from New Zealand to help get rid of them.
BBC News reports that it is the first time in the UK a dog has been used for the task.
Stoats are native to the British mainland but are a menace to small creatures like voles, hen harriers and short-eared owls in Orkney.
Macca does not kill stoats, but indicates their location to his handler. This helps conservationists to decide where to set humane traps. He has been finding stoats in New Zealand, the only other place where the animal is an invasive species, for over two years.
Sarah Sankey, from the Orkney Native Wildlife Project, told BBC Radio Orkney: “Stoats arrived in Orkney in 2010 and until recently had been confined to the mainland and islands linked by bridges, but we are now getting reported sightings from other islands. “We put traps and cameras onto these islands, but the presence of stoats is really difficult to confirm. So a dog is a failsafe way of finding out whether they’re there or not.”
Stoats are can swim up to 3km (2 miles), so there is a risk that even if they’re completely eradicated from the mainland, others could swim back from smaller islands.
Macca, and his handler Ange Newport, will make sure there are no stoats living on islands like Hoy and Shapinsay before a full removal can take place on the mainland. It would be the world’s largest island eradication project.
Ange said: “We’ve been dealing with this in New Zealand for a long time. In places we can keep them off, like islands, we’ve been very successful. Although he is not really a pet, Macca is definitely part of my family. We have a very strong bond, which is integral to the success of our work, and we also enjoy our free time together too. He enjoys a good romp on the beach at home, saying hi to the other beach dogs out there, and running after sticks in the surf. Mac loves his job and is surely happy to be here, and he does have a rather Scottish sounding name, which hopefully puts him in good stead for making friends.”
(Story source: BBC News)