By Russell Wynn, 21 January 2018
In 2017, WNF again operated two camera traps in the New Forest under Forestry Commission licence, in the hope of building upon the encouraging results of the previous two years (see the 2016 review at the link below):
The first deployments commenced in mid-April with both cameras deployed in New Copse Inclosure, following a report of a possible Pine Marten seen nearby. The cameras stayed out for almost a month but sadly no Pine Martens were recorded, although it proved to be an important area for Sika Deer with herds of up to 14 animals regularly seen. There were also regular sightings of Fallow Deer and three sightings of Muntjac Deer, but no Roe Deer were observed in this area.
The two camera traps were redeployed on 01 July 2017 in the central NF close to where Pine Marten images and road kills had been obtained in 2015-16. One of the cameras was located in a relatively inaccessible location adjacent to an inclosure fence that was clearly a pathway for deer and other animals. This camera stayed out until the batteries eventually died on 03 Dec 2017, providing an opportunity to look at seasonal trends in sightings over a five-month period between July and November.
This analysis revealed that Roe and Muntjac Deer, which were mostly seen as singles or pairs, showed no obvious seasonal pattern, with a mix of bucks and does throughout. In contrast, Fallow Deer numbers peaked sharply in October during the rutting season, with the first mature stags arriving on 01 Oct 2017 and seen regularly thereafter, often chasing does; this seems to indicate that the camera location is in an important rutting area. The largest herd of Fallow Deer contained 27 animals. Of interest, a distinctive buck Fallow Deer with deformed antlers that was recorded on 17 Oct was reported five times on the WNF Facebook page in the Aug-Oct period, all within five kilometres of the camera trap site.
Perhaps the most interesting result concerned the ten sightings of Red Deer between 06 July and 05 Oct 2017, all but one of which were mature stags seen on one date only. The largest of these was a stunning 14-point stag (known as an Imperial Stag), although multiple 12-point stags were also seen (known as Royal Stags). The behaviour of these stags suggested they were on transit to a known rutting area east of the camera location, and that they originated from the west (possibly the Avon Valley). Also, of interest, a young Sika Deer stag was noted on 02 Oct 2017, coinciding with the first arrival of mature Fallow Deer bucks at the site.
The other camera was deployed just 1500 m away in open woodland close to a road and car park for 3.5 months up to mid-October, but didn’t record any Red Deer. In addition, there were only three Muntjac Deer (compared to ~40 sightings in the same period at the other site), and lower numbers of Fallow Deer (with very few mature bucks), although Roe Deer numbers were similar. And only one Grey Squirrel was recorded here in 3.5 months, compared to ~50 sightings at the other site! This potentially highlights the importance of habitat and recreational disturbance in controlling mammal distribution and abundance in this area.
During November and December this camera was deployed at a couple of locations within an inclosure close to the long-term deployment site. Other than regular Muntjac Deer within the inclosure, the only other notable sightings were of regular foxes that were evidently feeding on a Red Deer carcass (probably a road kill) that had been dumped nearby!
Finally, of interest, only one Badger was recorded, and Muntjac Deer were recorded at all six sites where camera traps were deployed – a sign of the times perhaps?
For 2018, one of the camera traps is likely to remain at the long-term deployment site described above, to further study the seasonal flux of deer at this location. The other camera trap will be moved around regularly, and will be moved in response to any reports of target species such as Pine Marten.
Many thanks to Jayne Albery and Andy Page of the Forestry Commission for their ongoing support with licences, to Andrew Colenutt for assisting with camera deployment and recovery, and to Martin Noble of Hampshire Mammal Group for providing advice on potential sites for selected species.