This last hunting season we had a few property owners ask us to come out with the drone and thermal camera to help hunt for hogs. We obviously fell in love with the idea. Doing this sparked our curiosity as we were seeing a lot more than hogs on these night time hunts. After doing some research and performing a few in house tests of our own, we got an opportunity to perform a wildlife survey for a property in Bosque county. The property manager had an idea of what kind of wildlife activity there was on the property but wanted verification to inform the members of the hunting seasons wildlife counts and we were looking for an opportunity to put this idea to the test. The property surveyed was roughly 500 acres and consisted of open fields and mesquite trees with a few small stock tanks.
Drones have the potential to save the property owner money compared to using helicopters and provides a more consistent and accurate result through autonomous flight and documentation methods. In this case study, we review the process, alternative wildlife survey methods, the results, and the deliverable to the client.
We ran 2 different tests. The first one was flying during the day just before dark when the deer and hogs would most likely to be active. Deploying our DJI Matrice 210 drone with the x4s and zenmuse 640r cameras, we were able to capture video in both visible and infrared as we flew in a grid pattern throughout the entire property. This process ensured we were able to review and document everything on the entire property surveyed. We had multiple screens for our team to review as we went along. If we identified something while flying, we could stop and investigate further to determine if what we were looking at was a cow, hog, deer or other animal. When using thermal imaging during the day and trying to identify warm bodies, it can be almost impossible. In order for a deer or hog to stand out from thermal imaging, the body temperature needs to be substantially different than its surrounding environment.
The second test was performed at night. Running our survey at night gave us that temperature difference we needed to see the wildlife stand out from the ground and trees they navigate. Using the same equipment as before, we flew the same automated pattern capturing video as we went along, stopping to investigate anything that caught our eye. We were surprisingly able to see animals walking through thicker and wooded areas. We could even see where something was bedded down and had gotten up to talk around just before we flew over. This process is very similar to what we would do in a search and rescue mission.
Historically, alternative methods for performing wildlife surveys would include aerial applications using airplanes or helicopters, setting up trail cameras and observing from the ground. Of these, probably the most effective would be using a helicopter as it scares up everything bedded down and gets them moving, giving you a brief moment to make counts before they scatter. With these methods, we are relying on individuals and collective groups of people to quickly and accurately count what is seen rather than record the whole process to ensure nothing is missed. These methods have proven true in the past.
We unfortunately did not have any other current survey data to compare our test with, but the property managers suspicion was in line with our survey results as we counted quite a few more hogs than deer in the area. Our counts were 27 hogs, 14 white tail deer (2 of which were yearlings), and 2 unknown’s from the 1 night time survey just after sunset.
After we have reviewed everything in the office, we edit our findings into a video showing you all the deer and hogs with visually observed in the field. We also process a basic report that tells you how many of the target animals we identified and whether or not they were mature animals, yearlings, piglets, bucks, small game such as rabbits or skunks and varmints such as coyotes. If we were unable to identify what the animal was we observed, we make note of it. Everything gets sent to the property owner to prove what we saw.
If you own a property in north Texas and want to consider having a wildlife survey completed, give us a call at (214) 842-6000 to discuss!