By Russell Wynn, 16 October 2019
Since January 2016, WNF have operated two infrared trail cameras (hereafter termed camera traps) in the New Forest to better understand mammal distribution and abundance through the year. This work is conducted under a Forestry England licence, and a copy of the raw data for each year is provided to them to support management activities. Highlights to date have included an unexpected record of Pine Marten in spring 2016, and annual records of all five deer species in the New Forest. A link to the 2017 review (and earlier years) is below:
The camera trapping programme continued in 2018, primarily focussed on a Constant Effort Site (CES) in the central New Forest where data were continuously collected in a consistent format from Jan to Dec. This site had previously been monitored from July to Nov 2017, and produced some interesting seasonal trends in deer species, primarily related to the annual rut. The aim for 2018 was therefore to assess deer movements at this location through an entire year.
A camera trap was continuously operated at the CES from 14 Jan until 09 Dec 2018. The monthly totals of records for each deer species are shown below, together with summary accounts for all five deer species encountered.
The partial dataset collected from the CES in 2017 showed indications for eastwards migratory movements of Red Deer related to the annual rut. This was further supported by the more comprehensive dataset collected in 2018, with Red Deer only recorded from 08 May to 30 Sep. There were eight records of hinds (seven individuals and one record of two together) and 11 records of stags (nine individuals and two records of two together). The largest animal was a 12-point ‘Royal Stag’ on 29 Aug, with two records of ten-point stags and three of eight-point stags, focussed on the period from 20 Aug to 30 Sep. Of note, one of the eight-point stags was observed to have a section of plastic fencing and cord entangled in a broken antler, presumably from an area of adjacent farmland/paddocks (this type of fencing is not generally used on the Open Forest).
The Red Deer rut in the New Forest usually peaks in activity in October, so the 2017-18 data suggest movement of animals onto the Open Forest via the CES towards a nearby rutting area. The CES is located adjacent to an east-west oriented stream and inclosure fence, to the west of a traditional rutting area, which would support this interpretation. Interestingly, there does not appear to be any return movement via the CES after October, perhaps suggesting different inward and outward migration routes.
A stag with stubby antlers was seen twice on the morning of 02 June, echoing the single record at this site in 2017. This species is rarely seen north of the railway line in the New Forest, but individual stags occasionally wander more widely.
Recorded throughout the year, but with a small peak in June, and then a larger peak in Sep-Nov, coincident with the rut. The only double-figure herds were 10 on 11 Feb and 18 on 13 Nov (cf. 27 in 2017). The first fawn was observed on 15 June, and spent most of that day close to the camera trap site. There were then regular records of at least two does with fawns for the remainder of June, including a leucistic (off-white) doe that was first recorded on 17 May.
The first mature bucks appeared at the CES from 25 Sep (cf. 01 Oct 2017) and regular sightings then continued through to 13 Nov. Records peaked in October, coincident with the rut. Unlike the Red Deer, there were several records of mature bucks scent-marking and pursuing does at the CES, suggesting that this secluded woodland site is an important rutting area for this species.
Sporadic records of individuals throughout the year, with a small peak in the spring.
Regularly recorded throughout the year, almost all as individuals, with a peak in June and again in Sep-Nov (not observed in 2017).
Finally, it’s worth noting that all five of the above deer species were recorded at the CES within a five-day period from 29 May to 02 June.
Other species of mammal recorded at the CES included three records of Badger (including one apparently trying to get through a deer fence on 23 Jan), three records of Fox, and regular records of Grey Squirrel, with a marked peak in the Sep-Nov autumn period. Of note, a Grey Squirrel was observed on 28 Feb when the camera trap recorded a temperature of -7oC, and again on 22 Nov in -3oC, indicating that they can remain active in cold weather.