DRONE-CAPTURED thermal imaging is being used to track deer numbers across 1,000 hectares of enclosed conservation woodland around Loch Katrine.

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) officials are trialling the technology, which has enabled them to identify and monitor exact numbers in a bid to prevent damage to the regenerating young woodland.  

Forestry Journal: Loch Katrine Loch Katrine

The area surrounding Loch Katrine, in the Scottish Highlands, is currently undergoing a renewed land management plan by FLS in a bid to create up to 2,000 ha 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.

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Ian Fergusson, head of wildlife management at FLS, said: “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."

The 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.

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Ian added: "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.”

Drone technology has been trialled elsewhere in Scotland by FLS. As we told previously, seeds were recently scattered across six hectares of Glen Croe by drones as part of an ongoing project to reduce the number of serious landslips at the Rest and Be Thankful, which is frequently closed.