Several of the more common New Forest mammal species, such as Fallow Deer, Fox, Grey Squirrel and Badger, are encountered during routine surveys between dawn and dusk. However, a number of scarce and largely nocturnal species such as Muntjac Deer, Otter, Polecat and even Pine Marten are much harder to see, and relatively little is known of their distribution and populations.

 

A rare view of a Muntjac Deer, photographed on a cold day at Rhinefield in 24 Dec 2010
A rare view of a Muntjac Deer, photographed on a cold day at Rhinefield in 24 Dec 2010

 

From Dec 2015 onwards we are continually operating two infrared trail cameras at various sites in the New Forest (under a Forestry Commission license), in order to contribute towards our understanding of these more elusive species. Trail cameras can be left unattended for months at a time, and are triggered when a mammal or bird moves in front of the camera sensor. Images are stored on a memory card and can then be downloaded when the camera is recovered.

 

This leucistic Fallow Deer was photographed with a trail camera at a site near Brockenhurst
This leucistic Fallow Deer was photographed with a trail camera at a site near Brockenhurst

 

One of the key challenges of camera trapping in an extensive area such as the New Forest is selecting good sites for deployment. This requires a bit of fieldcraft and a healthy dose of trial-and-error! Potentially productive sites include physical boundaries such as streams and enclosure fences, especially where large trees are present which can be used to secure the camera. Keep an eye on the WNF blog and the monthly sightings pages for our latest camera trapping results.

 

An inquisitive Fox investigating discarded peaches at a site near Brockenhurst
An inquisitive Fox investigating discarded peaches at a site near Brockenhurst