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Rat threat to St Kilda

5 February 2008

On Friday 1st  February a fishing vessel ran aground in stormy seas on the main island of Hirta in the St Kilda archipelago.  At first light the 14 crew were successfully rescued by Coastguard helicopter and airlifted to Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.  Fortunately none were seriously injured.


The concerns after this were for the environmental impact that this may have – the fuel onboard and the possibility that there may be rats.  The small amount of fuel was quickly dispersed in the violent sea conditions and does not appear to have made any lasting impact on the immediate  environment.  However we still need to establish if there are any rats present. With no ground-based predators on St Kilda and all the birds either nesting on the ground or in burrows the accidental introduction of a species such as rat could have a devastating impact on the bird colonies. Rats would also threaten the existance of the St Kilda mouse


Traps were set on Friday around the location of the boat and the nearby buildings and today (Tuesday) a team of 2 National Trust for Scotland staff will travel out to set up monitoring stations.  They will lay a series of chocolate flavour wax blocks at regular intervals across an area.  These will be regularly checked for teeth marks.  If any marks correspond to rats teeth-marks then we will know if we have a problem.

Vessel aground


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