Forestry and Land Scotland works with CivTech to improve deer management

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is working with CivTech to develop new ways to improve deer management.

The fourth collaboration – part of the CivTech Round 9 – involves two projects, each worth up to £650,000, part funded by CivTech as part of their Innovate for Nature initiative.

Through the two projects FLS hopes to develop new technological approaches to wildlife tracking as well as looking at better ways of transporting deer carcasses out of the rugged Scottish landscape.

FLS say managing deer is essential to protecting new woodland and vulnerable habitats like ancient Atlantic rainforest, and to help sustain habitats for a wide range of other species.

But tracking the animals is time consuming for rangers as well as being physically and mentally challenging.

FLS hopes to develop a cost-effective way of letting Wildlife Rangers identify the exact location of every animal larger than 5kg in a specified area.

Project manager for FLS, Veronica Lyne-Pirkis, said: ‘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.’

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.

Often after culling the deer, rangers are left dragging a carcass, which can weigh 120kg, through difficult terrain of the mountain.

FLS hopes the second project would help find a better way of transporting the deer carcasses.

Veronica added: ‘Once our Wildlife Rangers have found and culled deer, they need to get them out of the forest and into a larder for processing as soon as possible.

‘This can also be a challenging job, especially in a rugged landscape and when time is of the essence if the carcass is to produce quality venison for the human food chain.

‘Taking a shot might mean committing that ranger to five or more hours of hard physical labour, time that they could instead be committing their considerable skills to other wildlife priorities in an area.

‘So, 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.’

Read more on Scottish Field’s Outdoors pages. 

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