EU Cash Proposal To Rid St Agnes Of Rats

A six-figure bid is about to go in to Brussels to seek funding for a rat removal project on Scilly.

The application which has been prepared by the RSPB is designed to aid the survival of the Manx shearwater and storm petrel in the islands, numbers of which have been declining in recent years.

The cash will be spent on ridding St Agnes and Gugh of rats.

The birds’ offer an easy prey for rodents.

A company called Wildlife Management International conducted a detailed survey on Scilly’s rat population last autumn. Their recently published report estimated that there were more than 30,000 brown rats on the islands with something like 9% resident on Agnes and Gugh.

The Wildlife Trust currently keeps rat numbers down on the uninhabited islands. It is not so easy where there are people about and the report recommended that a pilot project on Agnes and Gugh would offer the most realistic option for successful rat removal.

Wildlife Management argued that the rat issue could not be addressed on St Mary’s until waste issues at Moorwell had been effectively solved. It said that nothing could be done on Bryher, Tresco and St Martin’s either unless all three islands were tackled together.

The three are too close to each other to be dealt with individually because each could easily be re-infested by rats from the other two. According to Wildlife Management, a full-grown brown rat can swim more than a kilometre and stay afloat for up to three days at neap tides on a calm sea.

The RSPB’s bid to the EU is being directed toward the latest phase of so-called LIFE funding. This is grant money set aside in Brussels to support key environmental projects in EU-designated Special Areas of Conservation like Scilly.

A project brief was submitted to Defra in May and the application has to be forwarded to Brussels by the middle of this month.

However, the RSPB is unlikely to know before next June whether or not grant money will be made available. Other potential partners and cash contributors include the Duchy of Cornwall, the AONB, the Wildlife Trust and the Isles of Scilly Bird Group.

Wildlife Management’s research on Agnes showed that in addition to affecting seabird populations, brown rats had an impact on visitor enjoyment, animal and public health as well as damage to crops and property to the tune of £15,000 per year.

Rats also had an appetite for the Scilly shrew and ground nesting birds generally.