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last update: November 08, 2006

Tracking Red Deer in Belgium with GPS Collars
A reintroduction project

by

Peter Baert & Jim Casaer
Provinciaal Natuurcentrum,
Research Institute for Nature and Forest

 

 

Background

Red deer disappeared in Flanders around 1780, when the last animal was shot near Brussels.

This large herbivore has a key-function in forested ecosystems via the creation of open spaces and gradients in forests and at the forest edges. Restoring habitats, defragmentation of landscapes via the construction of ecoducts also benefits other species. Red deer thus can be the ambassador for the construction of more coherent ecological networks.

In 2003 a theoretical study was published (in Dutch) demonstrating parts of Flanders still can maintain several groups of red deer. As reintroduction is not without risk in a densely populated area such as Flanders (i.e. crop damage; traffic accidents), we opted for a reintroduction in two stages. A small scale pilot, followed by a larger scale reintroduction.

 

 

In November 2005 a group of fifteen animals was released in a fenced area of about 150ha. This group consisted of five males, eight females and two calfs. Seven of these animals – three males and four females - were collared using GPS-GSM collars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The aims of this study were

 

   determine survival rate, reproduction of the animals

   look at interactions of the animals with each other, other herbivores in the area (cattle),
               possible effects of the red deer on the presence of rare butterflies.

   Look at the reaction of the animals towards visitors (man-animal interactions)

   Crop damage (especially forest damage)

   Land use

 

 

Results

Some of the results of this research are presented here. In summary we can say that

All animals survived the winter. Only one male died shortly after release (handling stress).. As seen on the pictures animals are in excellent health. All females also had a calf. These results are an indication red deer indeed find the needed food and shelter in the area.

Till now only one group was formed. The group of females was adopted by one dominant male (unfortunately not collared). The other males stay near the group, but make very few attempts to steal females (i.e. possibly because they are still very young?). Males are slightly more active (wander of more often, visit larger areas) then females.

There seems thus far to no effect of the red deer on the presence of rare butterflies.

Animals tolerate the presence of people remarkably well. They become alert once they see humans and if approached move away. They however can be approached relatively easy (150m in open field) and do not flee, but calmly walk away. They also do not attempt to attack people.

Some damage to willows was noted (stripping)

Animals use the complete area, be it the areas most frequented changed in the course of the year. Only open pastures with cattle are avoided.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author's address:

Peter Baert
Provinciaal Natuurcentrum,
Het Groene Huis, Domein Bokrijk, B-3600 GENK


Belgium                                        pbaert@limburg.be

                                                         www.ibw.vlaanderen.be

 

Jim Casaer
Instituut voor Natuur en Bosonderzoek
Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap Afdeling Wildbeheer
Gaverstraat 4, 9500 Geraardsbergen

Belgium   
                                                   jim.casaer@inbo.be

                                                       www.inbo.be                

 

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