St Agnes Rat Eradication Scheme Starts On Friday

seabird recovery project
Work starts this Friday on the £900,000 project to wipe out brown rats on St Agnes and Gugh.

The Seabird Recovery Project is a partnership between The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Duchy of Cornwall, Natural England and the RSPB.

Money for the work has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the EU’s ‘Life’ programme.

On Friday workers will lay the first bait to kill the rodents, which should keep the island rat-free for at least 25 years.

Culling them will protect the eggs and chicks of rare and endangered storm petrel and Manx shearwater.

The project received universal approval from the 85 islanders, both new and longstanding.

And Councillor Mollie Peacock says 100% support for any local scheme is unusual but in this case it was vital.

All locals needed to back the plans to avoid the risk of reinfestation,

There’ve been a series of community meetings over the project because St Agnes is a year-round residential island, unlike other places where the project team has worked.

On Lundy and Canna in Scotland the islands are owned by one organisation.

The experts, Wildlife Management International, are based in the South Island of New Zealand and have wide extermination experience. They also eradicated feral cats on Ascension Island.

But St Agnes cat owners needn’t worry. Dorothy Barker of Grinlington Farmhouse says she was initially concerned about the potential effects of the bait on her young cat.

But she says the workers were careful to explain the plans and show her that it’s pet-safe and that a cat can’t get into the containers.

Dorothy, the islands’ longest resident of 85 years, gives the project her approval as a development that will improve the quality of St Agnes and Gugh life.

She’s personally unaffected by the vermin but she understands how visitors can be upset when the rodents run over the rocks, along the shoreline or the Bar.

And Dorothy points out that they do cause damage and expense for the island’s farmers.

Biz Bell from WMI said the islanders has been patiently waiting for this phase of the work and preparing the island ready for their arrival.

She said her team are looking forward to being “part and parcel” of the community this winter.

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