Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is trialling the use of drone-captured thermal imaging technology to track deer numbers across 1000 hectares of enclosed conservation woodland around Loch Katrine.
After an increase in reports of deer entering the enclosed area, FLS is now able to identify and monitor exact numbers in a bid to prevent damage to the regenerating young woodland.
The area surrounding Loch Katrine is currently undergoing a renewed land management plan by FLS in a bid to create up to 2000 hectares of new woodland with less fencing. If the trials continue to capture successful results, the drone thermal imaging could be crucial to managing the local deer population through sustainable culling.
The expert drone pilot contracted by FLS, BH Wildlife Consultancy, is able to identify the exact location of the deer population within the conservation area, and can even indicate the exact species and sex of the mammal.
Deer numbers in Scotland are estimated to have doubled in the past 30 years and are now estimated at over 1 million. To help protect Scotland’s national forests and land from the negative impacts of deer, FLS employs a number of techniques, including deer culling and fencing, to keep numbers down to a sustainable level, keeping animals healthy and mitigating against habitat loss.
The use of thermal imaging comes after FLS recently announced the trial of Nofence GPS collars on cows at Glentrool in Dumfries & Galloway to promote self-seeded broadleaf regeneration from the nearby Glentrool Oakwoods (SSSI).
Ian Fergusson, Head of Wildlife Management at Forestry and Land Scotland, comments:
“We are aware of an increasing number of deer managing to enter an enclosed conservation area around Loch Katrine. In order to develop the new land management plan for the area and to prevent any further damage to the young woodland, we knew we had to introduce a viable way of controlling the deer population.
“This new technology has the ability to spot the exact location of deer, which will improve FLS deer culling abilities in a sustainable manner. As trials of the drone thermal imaging show successful results, the method should continue to help ensure each woodland enclosure is left with a very limited number of deer inside the area.”