Preparations are well under way for the operational phase of the longtail (brown rat) eradication campaign on the Calf of Man. From September 2012, bait points will be laid out at 50 metre intervals on a grid covering the whole island and Kitterland. Rodenticide will be deployed during November and early December. If at the end of 4 weeks there is no more bait take, the rodenticide will be replaced with non-toxic chocolate wax blocks to allow monitoring for any residual longtail activity.
The operation will take 10-11 weeks of intensive work by staff and volunteers, mostly involving checking all the bait points once or twice a week. If all goes to plan, the number of bait points will be scaled down and frequency of checking of the non-toxic bait blocks reduced to once a month for a period of up to two years, after which we hope to be able to declare the Calf longtail-free.
It is important to stress that we will need to keep up the vigilance after project completion more or less indefinitely, as longtails are good swimmers and can hop ashore unseen from boats. Quarantine procedures will be introduced at the Calf harbours for incoming goods and equipment and notices and advice will publicised to alert the boat owning community and visitors of the precautions necessary to prevent longtail re-colonisation.
We would still welcome volunteers willing to spend a week or so on the Calf in the autumn/winter to help with the baiting phase. You would need to be reasonably fit and able to cope with fairly challenging weather conditions and rough ground. On the plus side, you will be in good company and there are wood-burning stoves back at the Observatory to come back to when you have been working outside. Anyone interested in volunteering for the project should contact the Manx Wildlife Trust (email@example.com, or telephone 844432).
The Calf Manx Shearwater Recovery Project is jointly managed by Manx National Heritage, the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) in the UK, the Manx Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, with assistance from Manx BirdLife and DEFA.
For enquiries about the project, please contact Kate Hawkins at Manx National Heritage (firstname.lastname@example.org or tel. 648022).