Saturday, July 13, 2013

Island Paradise: Radio Orkney and Stoats

On Friday morning, I awoke to a picture of a deceased mustelid posted on Radio Orkney's Facebook page. The picture featured the following caption:
Scottish Natural Heritage has renewed its appeal for folk to contact them with any sightings of stoats in the county. Earlier this week a cat managed to catch and kill a stoat near the airport and SNH say they'd like to hear from anyone who sees a stoat either alive or dead. The stoat was a juvenile which has confirmed information being gathered by SNH on the spread of the animals in the county. Most stoat sightings seem to be concentrated around a few hotspots including Wideford Hill, the airport and Hobbister in Orphir. Gail Churchill from SNH said that stoat sightings had increased earlier in the year and were on the increase now as well. She's asked anyone who sees a stoat to report it to them and if a dead stoat is found to note its position and if possible photograph it. The SNH number is 87 5302
As with everything about Orkney, I found it interesting; but in this case, I was a bit confused. The Radio Orkney station manager happens to be an acquaintance of mine, so I was surprised to see the following post - with that same picture - in my Facebook news feed a couple of hours later:
Apparently in the news headlines this morning I said that a local cat had "nailed" a stoat and killed it. This unconscious slip has been interpreted by some as me expressing tacit approval of the actions of the cat. One person has suggested that it sounded as if I was almost congratulating the cat. I would like to make it clear that I would never under any circumstances express a personal opinion while reading a news bulletin - that would be quite wrong.

PS. If the cat is reading this "Good Puss, Clever Puss"
Of course, this left me even more curious than I'd already been. The easiest solution? Get on the horn with my old buddy, Captain John, who lived in Orkney for most of his professional career. We enjoyed the following exchange, plus a bit more that's not fit to print.
Me: So, I get the impression that Orcadians don't care for stoats?
Captain John: I do not know about what you are talking. Stoats are not indigenous to the Orkney Islands so of course they won't like them. Is there a specific context for your observation?
Me: According to Radio Orkney, a cat caught and killed one, but I've been unable to decipher why Scottish Heritage was reportedly on about it. Your response has been more enlightening than R.O. or the station manager's FB, which just assume (probably rightly) that everyone within the sound of their voice is in on the story.
Captain John: Ah! I am enlightened. Scottish Natural Heritage would be concerned because it'll be the first stoat they've found there and they'll be worried there's a breeding pair because of the threat to the birdlife.
So, there you have it! Stoats are, then, neither indigenous to Orkney, nor welcome visitors like me or Captain John. (One could make the same observation about the cat that killed the stoat in the first place, but that's another discussion altogether.) You learn something new about Orkney all the time!

1 comment:

  1. Cats aren't indigenous to Orkney, either. Nobody questions the damage cats do to wildlife (e.g. Orkney voles, birdlife), nor call for their eradication. Irresponsible cat owners let their cats roam free. If dog owners did the same with their dogs, there'd be an uproar. It's one rule for cats, one rule for all other animals. Blatant species-ism!