By Dave Parish, GWCT Head of Scottish Lowland Research
The LIFE funded Laser Fence project is testing a novel laser system for potential use as a deterrent for pest species of mammals. This is based on the existing laser which is manufactured by Bird Control Group as a bird scaring device, for which it is very effective. This currently offers managers a non-lethal, automated means of keeping pest birds away from vulnerable crops, or potentially dangerous areas such as runways, but is untested on mammals.
Rats feeding at one of the bait sites, prior to LaserFence deployment
At the Game and Wildlife Scottish Demonstration Farm, we have been designing trials to look at a number of species to the LaserFence system, including rabbits, deer and predatory species, but we are now in a position to formally test this on rats. This is a key species for the project because there is a push to reduce rodenticide use across Europe, so if LaserFence can deter rats from designated areas, it may offer an alternative to poisons in some circumstances. This in turn could help reduce accidental poisoning of non-target species and contamination of the food-chain, which can then harm predatory species.
The site for LaserFence trials on rats at GWSDF. A solar panel, which powers the device via a battery, can be seen in the foreground
These trials will be conducted within two disused buildings which have been fenced-off to keep people out, but which are being used by the local rats. We have been monitoring small piles of grain for a couple of weeks now to quantify rat activity in these areas and will shortly be turning the lasers on. If they work, we hope to record a significant drop in activity within the buildings.