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Foresters are using state-of-the-art “stealth” cameras to capture infra-red images of deer and wild boar roaming Welsh Government woodlands.
The cameras, which are hidden on trees and are triggered by movement, will help Forestry Commission Wales to mount round-the-clock surveillance on the animals which, if left unmanaged, can cause significant damage to agriculture, forestry and vulnerable habitats.
The cameras will provide Forestry Commission Wales with vital information on the animals’ spread and help it to protect rare habitats from the effects of damaging browsing.
The specialised "Reconyx" cameras, which can capture still photographs of deer and wild boar as they roam public woodlands in the dead of night, can also record video clips to monitor their habits.
They have been set up all over Wales in areas where there is evidence of deer or wild boar movement, especially in Glasfynydd in the Brecon Beacons near Usk, Coed-y-Brenin near Dolgellau, the Lower Wye Valley and Radnor forest areas.
David Jam, Wales Silvicultural Operations (WSO) Wildlife Management Officer, said, “These cameras are a very useful tool for Forestry Commission Wales as they save us many thousands of man hours and a huge amount of vehicle mileage.
“The cameras act as a silent observer, detecting and recording any living thing which passes their infra red beam.
“By using the cameras to constantly monitor an area for up to six months, we are gathering data every day without physically driving to visit areas and undertaking survey work. It’s like having extra members of the team working full time on surveys for us.
“This is a great example of the use of technology to make our work more effective and reduce costs.”
The cameras will be a vital tool to help deliver the Strategy for Wild Deer Management in Wales, published recently by Forestry Commission Wales in partnership with the Welsh Government, Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and the Deer Initiative.
Although wild deer are not as numerous or widespread in Wales as in other parts of the UK, their numbers and spread are increasing, along with their impact.
The cameras have confirmed the extent of red deer in the Brecon Beacons as well as feral wild boar in the Lower Wye Valley, providing valuable information on which woodlands they were using and when they were using them.
They have also thrown up one or two surprises: while searching for wild boar in the Lower Wye Valley, a roe deer strolled in front of one of the cameras, though there was no firm evidence of roe in the area.
Forestry Commission Wales Wildlife Ranger James Upson said, “I can set these cameras up and know that they are working 24-7.
“The cameras are easily adjustable and take pictures that are high quality, which can give me an insight into the size, habits and movements of a population of deer.”
The cameras can be left for up to six months before they need to be checked. If the images confirm the presence of deer, this can be followed up with physical visits to carry out more detailed surveys into the impacts on trees and ground flora.
If necessary, thermal image surveys can then be undertaken to give a better indication of population density.
As well as the damage to native flora, agricultural crops and trees, deer can also cause road traffic accidents.
Infra-red images of two deer caught on camera wandering in woodland at night.
A wild boar feeds from a woodland bait station set up in front of the camera to attract any boar in the area.
NOTES TO EDITORS
A total of 14.3 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
Geographical spread of deer in Wales:
Living wild in Brecon Beacons between Trecastle and Cwm Taf. Some escapees in the Margam Bryn forest area, as well as sightings in the Lleyn Peninsula and Welshpool area.
Released in the early 1970s on the English side of the border, near Presteigne.
Now present throughout Radnorshire on Welsh Government and private land.
Roe have also been sighted along the M4 corridor, in the Lower Wye Valley and throughout Mid and North Wales (although these are not regular sightings and are probably transitory animals).
Main clusters: Denbighshire, predominantly on private land but some on Welsh Government land.
Coed-y-Brenin, (Dolgellau) some on private land but predominantly on Welsh Government land.
Powis Castle Estate (Welshpool), predominantly on private land, some on Welsh Government land.
Welshpool, on both Welsh Government and private land.
Llandeilo, predominantly on private land.
Margam, Port Talbot, predominantly on Welsh Government land, some on private and local authority land.
Wentwood, on Welsh Government and private land.
Lower Wye Valley, Monmouthshire, on both Welsh Government and private land.
There was a very small group (possibly still surviving) on the Teifi Marshes and unconfirmed reports of sika in the Pembrey Forest area. Also possible sightings near Welshpool.
Anecdotal sightings along the M4 and M55 corridors, as well as sightings in the Lower Wye Valley and Radnorshire. Strong anecdotal sightings in the Mold-Wrexham area.
Chinese Water Deer
None known to exist in Wales.
For more information on wild deer management in Wales, contact Wildlife Management Officer David Jam on 0300 068 0137, mobile 07500 608527, email firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Visit News at FCWales for news, images, press office contact details and links to case studies.
Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email email@example.com