How many red deer?

Flanders Moss NNR

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Last night was a long night. We were out counting deer on and around Flanders Moss in an effort to get a handle on just how many are out there. We know that there are too many and that they are damaging the bog and damaging surrounding farmland but it is important to try to get a more accurate assessment than just ‘too many’. So, at least once each year we travel around the Moss in the depth of the night with a set of thermal imaging binoculars. These high tech and incredibly expensive bits of kit make counting deer at night possible. But it is a military style expedition with the A-team put gathered (a mixture of SNH Wildlife Ops and NNR staff), timings coordinated with Forestry Commission Scotland, landowners permissions sought and then the route planned.
At 18:30 we started at the tower getting a good scan across the moss and then headed off anti-clockwise, working our way down endless rough tracks, stopping at suitable view points and trying to cover as much of the ground as possible.

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The team on the top of the viewing tower in pitch dark seen through an image intensifier.

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The view of the moss towards Ben Lomond from the tower using an image intensifier.

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A group of deer seen through the thermal imaging binoculars. The white patches (the hottest spots) are the deer.

We eventually finished well past midnight on what was by then a beautifully lit, frost nipped night.
Deer weren’t the only wildlife out and about. Badgers, foxes, hedgehogs (even thought it was cold), woodcock, snipe, tawny owls and barn owls were all seen going about their business.

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A barn owl ignoring us at the side of a track.

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The back seat team studying the laptop images and recording the counts and locations.

And as for the count? Well, the Forestry Commission were covering half of the area and as we don’t know their count yet we don’t have a full figure yet but we saw nearly 300 deer. Definitely too many.

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