Over the last few years BH Wildlife Consultancy has worked collaboratively with Bedford Estates (Woburn Deer Park) to explore, develop and experiment with the thermal imagery drone technology within an enclosed environment. Woburn Deer Park is world famous for it’s variety of deer species and is steeped in history with the first deer being present in 1661. It is a 1,000-acre traditional park with worldwide recognition for producing some of the finest deer in the world alongside well-known conservation programmes such as the Pere David deer reintroduction.
The site is located on Bedford Estate and is home to nine species of deer; Red, Manchurian Sika, Vietnamese Sika, Axis, Fallow, Pere David, Barasinga, Chinese Water and Muntjac.
Up until collaborating with Woburn, the technology has primarily been used for counting wild deer species within a defined area. So the initial objective was to establish how effective the thermal imaging drone would work as an aid to establishing accurate baselines in complex deer park populations e.g. multiple species over a large area. The aim of this project was to see if the drone can be used to take photographs that are of sufficient quality to ID species, age class and sex of the target species.
The initial focus since working with Woburn has been Red, Sika, Chinese Water and Pere David deer.
Each species presented different challenges to count such as Red deer massing and moving as one herd and Sika deer being spread out across the vast park. The deer team (headed by Will Waldron) have worked alongside us to census the deer park at different times of the year and we look forward to our ongoing work with the estate.
We will be doing a talk and demonstration of our work at Woburn Deer Park and our use of thermal drones on Thursday 20th of April at the British Deer Farms and Parks Association (BDFPA) meeting. The ‘Venison Now and in the Future’ Event is being hosted at Woburn Estate with a focus on the venison industry.