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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 January 2006, 09:40 GMT
Island's cull targets brown rats
Rat
The rats pose a threat to the island's bird species and wood mice
International pest controllers have culled nearly 10,000 rats on a small Hebridean island, it has emerged.

Rat catchers from New Zealand laid thousands of baits for the brown rodents on Canna in the Inner Hebrides.

They were drafted in by the National Trust for Scotland, which owns the island, to kill the creatures, which are threatening bird populations.

More than 90% of the rats have been killed and it is hoped the remainder will be removed by March.

We are tantalisingly close to have them all off the island
Abbie Patterson
National Trust for Scotland

The rats, which feed on seabirds' eggs, first arrived on the island on ships about 100 years ago.

They are being blamed for a serious decline over the last 10 years in the bird species which have inhabited Canna.

The rodents also pose a threat to the island's rare wood mice, 130 of which were transferred to Edinburgh Zoo before the 580,000 cull.

As well as harming wildlife on Canna, the rats have also caused a nuisance to the island's 11 residents by breaking into food stores.

Abbie Patterson, national species recovery officer with the National Trust, said the team from Wildlife Management International (WMI) were now targeting the few rats left on Canna.

'Target timescale'

"At this stage I would say we are tantalisingly close to have them all off the island," he said.

"We had not set a target timescale to finish the project, because that is difficult to do when you are working with wildlife, but so far we are very pleased with how it has gone.

"The poison being used is quite mild, because we were interested in keeping the damage to other wildlife to a minimum."

Mr Patterson added that the mice taken to Edinburgh Zoo were doing well and they were hoping to reintroduce them to the island later this year.

"We think we will have a lot more mice to re-release, because all the signs show that they are breeding," he said.

Risky project

During the operation, which began last September, the New Zealand team placed 4,000 baits on the island, which is just four-and-a-half miles long, and used 20 tonnes of rat poison.

The project has proved risky because of the rugged landscape, with the team having to abseil down cliffs to reach some areas.

Elizabeth Bell of WMI said: "We said when we arrived that we would not be here if we could not do the job and it has gone as well as we could have expected."

She added that the island would have to be monitored for two years before it could be said to be rat-free.


SEE ALSO:
Isles rats culled over bird fears
20 Sep 05 |  Scotland
Puffins win island rat war
18 Sep 02 |  Scotland


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