Deer numbers monitored at Hatfield Forest

PUBLISHED: 11:03 26 November 2009 | UPDATED: 07:28 30 May 2010

Hatfield Forest head warden Henry Bexley gets to grips with the thermal imaging equipment NT_241109_Deer Count

Hatfield Forest head warden Henry Bexley gets to grips with the thermal imaging equipment NT_241109_Deer Count

WARDENS have spent long evenings and nights tracking deer in Hatfield Forest as part of an annual census to monitor falling numbers. Preparations for the major counting began early on Tuesday morning with forest staff expecting two days and nights of leng

WARDENS have spent long evenings and nights tracking deer in Hatfield Forest as part of an annual census to monitor falling numbers.

Preparations for the major counting began early on Tuesday morning with forest staff expecting two days and nights of lengthy and patient headcounts.

Head warden Henry Bexley led the team taking part and described how the job would be done using an array of techniques both new and old.

He said: "We use infrared cameras to detect body heat from the deer and count them that way. But also we use a number of older techniques including a faecal pellet survey, or poo count, and ivy eating, where bunches are placed around the forest and we then monitor how much of each one is eaten."

Mr Bexley, who has been working at the forest for over 10 years, explained that the exact same methods are used every year to ensure that the count is as accurate as possible over the 1000 acre site.

Last year 220 fallow and muntjac deer were counted but numbers have been falling over the last few years - something which has been welcomed by the Hatfield team.

Mr Bexley said: "We have to keep the numbers down because the deer can destroy parts of the forest by basically eating themselves out of their own habitat. We keep numbers manageable by doing an annual cull with help from local farmers.

"We shoot them using a rifle but it is important to stress that the procedure is very quick.

"However, last year the count was still way over the amount of numbers we want. The native fallow population should be nearer 150 and there should be no muntjac at all, because they were introduced many years ago after originally coming from china.

"Monitoring of populations like this is really important to making sure we are doing the right things."

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