Red deer are an iconic image of the Scottish Highlands, but their numbers can be a source of controversy. Conservationists are concerned that there are too many, and that upland areas are being overgrazed, while some sporting estates argue that too many deer are being culled. Information on the numbers of deer in an area can be valuable information to help those managing the populations, giving clues as to what resources should be used in order to do so. Combining this information with knowledge of the condition of habitats can be particularly useful.
Scottish Natural Heritage recently undertook an aerial deer count in the Glen Lyon area. As you can imagine, using a helicopter dramatically reduces the time it takes, as the other method would be to have many people on foot carefully spying all the ridges and corries, which would have taken weeks. Instead, with Hamish’s local knowledge enlisted to help this only took about an hour, and it was also filmed by the BBC Scotland to feature on Landward (first shown on Friday 10th April!). Unfortunately Hamish wasn’t caught on camera, but parts of the South Chesthill Estate are visible so do have a look on iPlayer – it’s a few minutes in from the start of the show.
Here are some photos from the count (click to enlarge):