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             Red deer tracking research: GPS-GSM collars on red deer from the Bavarian Forest
             send position data via mobile phone. Location data evaluation by GIS

Nationalpark
Bayerischer Wald

last update: December, 1, 2004

& Environmental
     Studies

Study 2004

 

Introduction
Follwing the studies on movement, activity, home range and habitat use of red deer in the Bavarian Forest National Park during the last years (see below) seven red deer were fitted with GPS GSM collars in spring 2004. The investigation area is located in the south-east of Germany (figure 1).

 

Fig. 1:  Location of the investigation area in Germany (red symbol)


A part of the red deer population in the Bavarian Forest National Park overwinters in 3 “winter enclosures”. This red deer management concept  greatly helped reduce browsing and stripping damage to trees and saplings. This winter enclosure management method has been proved successful  since the 1970’ and `80`. A total of 80 red deer spend the winter in this enclosure and are released in the spring usually during the first weeks of May 2004.

The GPS receivers are programmed to take fixings every 2-4 hours and to send the data by SMS immediately after 7 fixings are taken via the mobile phone system directly to our groundstation at the office. The animals were caught in a corral and fitted with GPS-GSM collars (figure 2 and 3).

 

 

 

Fig. 2: A young stag in a corral
 

 

 


Photos: Marco Heurich,
             Rainer Pohlmann

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

    Fig. 3 (below): Young male red deer are fitted with GPS GSM collars

     

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three of the collars were already used last year and equipped with new batteries. All collars are state of the art: If a collar is out of GSM coverage the GPS fix data will be immediately transmitted when GSM coverage is available. This is the most secure option to get the maximum of GPS data via GSM network.
 

Tab. 1: Data of the collared red deer, 2004

 

Collar ID
2004

Name

Day of collaring
       2004

Sex

Age

 

 

694

Alois

April 16

male

2

 

 

696

Benedikt

May 2

male

6

 

 

841

Fritz

April 27

male

3

 

 

449

Willi

April 7

male

9

 

 

878

Oma

May 5

female

12

 

 

877

Paul

April 27

male

8

 

 

879

Susi

May 5

female

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



The red deer were released from the enclosure on May, 2004. The movements are presented in figure 4. The maps are updated all 8 weeks.

Fig. 4: Location points of 6 red deer (legend: age in bracket; n=8678 fixes) connected in chronological order, after leaving the winter enclosure, May 13 - December 1,  2004
 ©Basisdaten der Nationalparkverwaltung Bayerischer Wald

 

 

Study 2003


Introduction
Follwing the studies on movement of red deer in the Bavarian Forest National Park during the last years (see below) eight red deer were fitted with GPS-GSM collars in spring 2003.

The GPS receivers are programmed to take fixings every 2-4 hours and to send the data by SMS immediately after 7 fixings are taken via the mobile phone system directly to our groundstation at the office. The animals were caught in a corral and fitted with GPS-GSM collars (figure 2 and 3).

Tab. 1: Data of the collared red deer, 2003

 

Collar ID

Name

Day of collaring
       2003

Sex

Age

 

 

448

Kasimir

April 8

male

11

 

 

306

Bine

April 30

female

14

 

 

452

Oma

March 18

female

11

 

 

450

Spitz

March 24

male

3

 

 

449

Cäsar

April 8

male

7

 

 

453

Schwalbe

March 18

female

2

 

 

451

Fritz

March 19

male

2

 

 

302

Charly

April 30

male

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



The red deer were released from the enclosure on May 13, 2003. The movements are presented in figure 4 for males and 5 for females. It is obviously, that the male red deer show a more complex space behaviour and cover larger home ranges as the females.
 

Fig. 4: Location points of 3 male red deer connected in chronological order, after leaving the winter enclosure, May 13 - October 6,  2003
 ©Basisdaten der Nationalparkverwaltung Bayerischer Wald

 

Fig. 5: Location points of 3 female red deer connected in chronological order, after leaving the winter enclosure, May 13 - October 6,  2003 (n= 959, 1442 and 1229)

 

The activity of the tracked red deer has been monitored by a two axis activity logger. By this, the acceleration of the collar will be estimated 6-8 times every second and the overall mean value has been stored every 5 minutes. 

The complete GPS data sets and the activity and temperature data sets from the tracking period 2003 have been stored on board of the GPS GSM collar and were outried by computer via Link Manager. The activity of hint 452 are shown in figure 6.

Fig. 6: Activity data of female 452 in x- and y direction (blue and green symbols) and temperature data (red line),  April 30 2003 to March 24, 2004

 

Study 2002

Investigations on the use of habitat of red deer in the Bavarian forest are part of a cooperative pilot project between the Management of the Bavarian Forest National Park and Environmental Studies. The GPS collars are constructed by Vectronic Aerospace, Berlin. The company has financed a part of the project costs.

The Project
In March and April 2002 three red deer (female, young stag and older stag) in a winter enclosure were caught and provided with a GPS-Plus GSM collar. A total of 80 red deer spend the winter in this enclosure and are released in the spring usually during the first weeks of May. The red deer were outfitted with collars prior to release to test the data transmission system. The collars are programmed to take fixings every 3 hours and send the data by SMS on a daily basis. The red deer were released from the enclosure about the May 8, 2002. Their movements until December 2, 2002 are presented in figure 2.  

 

Fig. 2: Location points of  3 red deer connected in chronological order, after leaving the winter enclosure, May 8, 2002 -  January 4,  2003
 ©Basisdaten der Nationalparkverwaltung Bayerischer Wald

 
The young stag spent most of the time in the higher mountain areas on both sides of the border between  Bavaria and Czech Republic. In this area the GSM coverage is poor, that is why the data  transmission is insufficient.

In August the female red deer and the stag spent their time in higher regions, probably because of the disturbance by mushroom seekers in the lower areas. On September 7, the stag moved across the border to the Czech Republic, expanding his home range. From September 24 to October 23 no data was transmitted. Probably the animal lived in an area without GSM coverage. Since  October 23 the data arrived as usual. The stag moved back to the border.

Fig. 3: Location points of the 3 red deer from December 1, 2002 - January 4, 2003  
 ©Basisdaten der Nationalparkverwaltung Bayerischer Wald

In the last two weeks of September the female red deer moved down from the higher mountain areas and stayed in the first weeks of October  in or nearby  the winter enclosure. Whereas the young stag moved at this time into the higher mountain regions and expands his home range into Czech territory, travelled 9 km to the east, visited the winter enclosure and travelled back to the higher mountain regions.

At the time the female red deer are dwelling in the winter-enclosure with 65 others, the two stags are still moving in higher mountain regions, close to the border of the Czech Republic. This is unusual behaviour, because normally red deer pass the winter in the winter-enclosure or stays in the lower foothills. But this winter, until the first week of January, the mountains were nearly free of snow and obviously food was still available.


Statistics from May 8 - December 2, 8 fixings/day
 

Collar statistics

female

stag

young stag

fixings possible

1666

1666

1666

fixings via SMS transmitted

1459

1067

951

fixing/SMS efficiency [%]

88

64

57

 

 

 

 

red deer statistics

 

 

 

max. distance between 2 positions [m]

4377

8993

8211

mean distance of all positions [m]

299

320

469

home range MCP [ha]

1214

4726

6131

home range Kernel  (95%) [ha]

616

426

1389

Whereas the collar of the female red deer has a good efficiency (88%), the data transmission of  the stag’s collars is less (57% and 64%). It depends on the bad GSM coverage in the border area of the Czech Republic, where the stags spend a lot of time in the higher mountain regions.


Results from an Investigation with “normal” GPS-collars on red deer: Study 2001

In April 2001 5 female red deer from two different winter enclosures in the Bavarian Forest National Park were outfitted with GPS-Plus collars. At present one collar has been retrieved by recapturing one of the animals. The collar contained recordings of 6500 localizations from April 2001 to March 2002, whereby positions were recordedhourly. The migratory paths of the animal are shown in Fig. 5. 

Fig. 5: Location points of a female red deer connected in chronological order,
   May 2001 - March 2002 (n = 6500)
 

The 3 year old female red deer showed a conspicuous migratory pattern. It only wandered to the periphery of its range from the central area to which it quickly returned. Longer treks or excursions over several days outside of its home range did not occur.The animal was very homebound in choosing its winter quarters. It spent the winter in the same winter enclosure as the previous year.

The female red deer first remained in the vicinity of this enclosure upon its release on May 15, 2001. Later it moved to an area 5 km to the north. The animal often moved back and forth through a small corridor between these two ranges. The upper range encompassed an area of 843 ha, the lower an area of 900 ha (calculated by the convex polygon method, see also first introduction to our work with satellite telemetry).

 

More information about the project
The investigations should provide data to aid in the decision making process in the management of the Bavarian Forest National Park.  

After  the establishment of the Bavarian Forest as a national park attempts were made to develop solutions for the management of red deer in such a setting.  On the one hand the high population density of the red deer was reduced and  on the other unfenced feeding stations were removed in favour of 3 enclosed ones for the winter (“winter enclosures”), where the animals could overwinter. This management concept  greatly helped reduce browsing and stripping damage to trees and saplings. This winter enclosure management method has been proved successful  since the 1970’ and `80`.

An investigation conducted in 1984 showed that extensive areas in the Bavarian Forest National Park were not used by the red deer. The majority of the red deer in this park overwintered in the enclosures and had their summer ranges on Czech territory between the national border and the farther border fence. In the past few years several changes have occurred to influence the habitat and behaviour of the red deer:

  • The removal of the border fence has permitted a greater movement of individuals between the Bavarian Forest National park and the Sumava National Park. Especially a migration of the red deer from the Bohemian Forest to the unoccupied areas in the Bavarian Forest is assumed. 
     
  •  Due to the extemsive clear cuts on the Czech side and the large contiguous areas of deadwood in the Bavarian Forest, the browse conditions for the red deer have substantially improved. Helicopter logging and the lack ofcover apparently cause achange in habitat use among the red deer.
     
  • The scant snowcover during the past few years and the consequent greater availability of browse and increased mobility permitted the red deer to even overwinter on the upper slopes.
     
  • The recent occurrence of  wild boar and lynx in this area could also affect a change in the temporal-spatial behavioural system of the red deer.
     

Fig. 4: View from the village of St. Oswald towards the Rachel.Behind the mountain range lies the National Park Sumava in the Czech Republic.

The red deer management system effectively practiced for years must now be adapted to the changed conditions.For this purpose, an exact analysis of the above mentioned changes and an evaluation of alternative solutions is necessary. The present investigation is the first step in obtaining basic data on the actual use of habitat by red deer in the Bavarian Forest National Park and in the Sumava National Park.The following questions must be answered:

  •   What kind of migratory behaviour do the red deer actually show?
     
  •   Are there at present still potential overwintering areas? And if so, can the animals reach them and what habitat condtions prevail there?
     
  •   How would the animals react if the winter enclosures were removed, and what would the consequent management strategy be?

 

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