A CHALLENGE has been issued by forestry bosses for innovative approaches to managing Scotland's burgeoning deer population.

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) officials say they are looking for landscape-scale ideas that offer real-time locations, accurate counts, and species identification. Specifically, FLS wants to develop a cost-effective way of identifying the exact whereabouts of animals over five kg in an area.

Working with the Scottish Government's CivTech, forestry bosses are also seeking a second project that should modernise how FLS transports venison from the forest to its deer larders and improve the safety of wildlife rangers. Up to £650,000 is on offer for each scheme. 

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Project manager for FLS, Veronica Lyne-Pirkis, said: “Wildlife rangers are indispensable for sustainably managing wild deer on Scotland's National Forests and Land. Managing deer is essential to protect new woodland and vulnerable habitats like ancient woodlands or Atlantic rainforest, and to help sustain habitats for a wide range of other species. It can also help improve public safety in some places be reducing the likelihood of road traffic collisions.

"However, a lot of a ranger's time is taken up trying to track and identify deer, or occasionally other animals such as feral pigs, through rugged and variable terrain. 

“This is made all the more difficult because deer can become habituated to searching strategies and become more elusive.  This makes finding them considerably more time consuming and is also physically and mentally challenging for a ranger.  

“Our first challenge is therefore to develop a cost-effective way of letting our Wildlife Rangers identify the exact location of every animal larger than five kg in a specified area. This will improve efficiency and reduce the demands made on the resilience of our rangers.” 

A working system would ideally be able to give a ranger an idea of the location of the deer and other animal population in the immediate area while they are on site. However, a representation of deer numbers on the site within the previous 24 hours would still be useful.  

However, after an animal has been humanely culled and gralloched, a Wildlife Ranger must transport the carcass in a safe, hygienic and efficient way while fully complying with food standards legislation and best practise, by physical manual handling or with an ATV to the nearest track or road.   

Veronica added: "Our second challenge is to develop a more efficient way of transporting carcasses safely, quickly and easily from forest to larder, in a fully food standards compliant way that also improves the health and safety of our wildlife staff.” 

Elsewhere, Scottish Forestry is also taking part in the current round of CivTech, and is seeking advances in technology to managing and tracking pests and disease in trees. 

A statement read: "Evidence shows that the pace and scale of tree pest and disease incursions to Scotland are escalating and will be accelerated by further trade globalisation and climate change. 

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"There is both a legal and an environmental imperative to understand, scale, prevalence and distribution of stress, pests and disease in trees and wild plants across Scotland. 

"By using technology to gain understanding of these issues Scottish Forestry will be better placed to create and deploy interventions to minimise their impact across the short and long term." 

Both challenges close for applicants on August 22 at 12 PM. 

Full details of the Challenges can be found on the CivTech Scotland website.