The RSPB is looking for a ferret catcher

If you like the opportunity to work in one of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful landscapes, you may be in luck.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is currently looking for a person to take care of it.

What is the role? Coordinating the eradication of ferret and rat populations on Rathlin Island.

Seabirds and other wildlife on an island off the coast of Antrim are declining due to alien ferrets.

The number of puffins on Rathlin has fallen by more than half in recent years, according to RSPB research.

As part of a five-year project, the RSPB now needs a ferret trapping coordinator.

Marina McMullan, who lives on the island and is a member of the Rathlin Development Community Association, said ferrets have been a problem for more than 40 years as they are decimating local wildlife.

She said the job opportunity would bring employment to the community, adding that “every penny counts for residents.”

“I was born and raised on an island and we needed this for a long time. I am glad that work is underway to protect our local nature,” she said.

Rathlin Island is only six miles wide and one mile long, and is inhabited by about 150 people.

The job is part of the seabird restitution project, Rathlin Acting for Tomorrow, one of the largest of its kind, with a total budget of £4.5 million.

Ferrets are said to have been brought to the island in the 1980s as a way to control the rabbit population.

Tom McDonnell, a photographer who lives on Rathlin, said he was glad something was going on.

“The ferrets have attacked many ground-nesting birds such as lapwings and snipes, and I’ve noticed fewer hares and leverets,” he told BBC News NI.

He said the work would be hard.

“They are hard to see”

“No one knows how many ferrets are on the island. I only see them at night – they’re hard to see,” he said.

“I am a nature lover of all animals, but there is no denying the risks of having alien ferrets here. Local animals must come first.”

Rathlin Island

East Lighthouse on Rathlin Island, which is trying to solve the ferret problem

The RSPB said the winning candidate would be a strong advocate for Rathlin Island with a commitment to providing the small community with opportunities to contribute to the recovery of the species.

Clerical work will be a significant part of the job, but the role will also include working on the ground on the island as part of the elimination team.

“This will require humane shipping of animals,” reads the job description.

Project leader Dr David Tosh told the Mark Patterson Show on BBC Radio Foyle that the RSPB was looking for someone who could adapt to living on the island and working “in rubbish weather”.

“The biggest problem was them [ferrets] they eat [bird] eggs,” he said.

“Rathlin, because it never had any predators, had a lot of birds that like to nest on the ground, so when ferrets were introduced, over time those birds started to disappear.

“They’ve been really affected by ferrets… we’re trying to get rid of them.”

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