Specialist drones that use thermal imaging technology are being trialled to help cull deer in young woodland areas, the Scottish Government’s forestry agency has said.

There have been increased reports of the animals entering an enclosed conservation area with newly planted trees stretching 1,000 hectares around Loch Katrine in the Highlands, Forestry and Land Scotland (FSL) said.

The land, which lies within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, is currently undergoing a renewed management plan by FLS in a bid to create up to 2,000 hectares of new woodland with less fencing.

The drone pilot is able to identify the location of deer within the woodland and can even indicate the species and sex of the animal.

Ian Fergusson, head of wildlife management at FLS, said the new equipment will improve the agency’s deer culling abilities in a sustainable manner and will help prevent further damage to the regenerating area.

“As trials of the drone thermal imaging show successful results, the method should continue to help ensure each woodland enclosure is left with a very limited number of deer inside the area,” he added.

Deer numbers in Scotland are estimated to have doubled in the past 30 years and are now said to be more than one million, according to FSL.

The agency employs a number of techniques, including deer culling and fencing, to keep numbers down to mitigate habitat loss and to keep the herds healthy.