Scotland builds deer leaps to avoid train danger

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Deer Leaps at Kinbrace 3

Network Rail has completed the installation of 15 deer leaps along the railway boundary on the line between Kinbrace and Forsinard.

Deer leaps, which were first introduced on the line on an experimental basis back in 2019, offer all deer, but especially calves and juveniles, an escape route to prevent them from being hit by trains should they inadvertently stray onto, or become trapped on the line while crossing.

The leaps were installed as part of work to renew more than 5 miles of fencing in the area as part of an investment of almost £200k in the area to renew and upgrade the railway boundary.

To create the escape route for all deer, especially for the smaller ones, ground levels are changed on either side of the fence to assist quick, safe access and exit when crossing the railway.

A calf and mother will rarely separate, and should a calf get stuck the mother will not leave it, putting them both at risk. Leaps allow young deer to get over the fences and reduce the number of potential accidents involving deer.

The leaps are placed at areas where it is obvious deer regularly congregate and cross the railway. These locations have been identified and highlighted to Network Rail through engagement with the gamekeeper on the Auchentoul estate which borders the railway.

Once the deer learn the easier crossing routes, aligned to established routes over the railway, it is hoped they will use them by preference thereby reducing the number of deer struck by trains on the Scottish rail network.

It is hoped that the introduction of deer leaps will help cut the number of deer struck by trains which currently accounts for circa one fifth of animals struck by trains on the Scottish rail network.

Jonathan Callis, Senior Asset Engineer, Network Rail, commented:

“Wild deer are an integral part of Scotland’s wildlife and ecology and occur the length and breadth of our network.

“Solutions like this allow us to reduce the risk of collisions at ‘problem locations’ where deer are known to cross our land and positively contributes overall to deer welfare.

“It will not solve the problem completely as wild deer can attempt to cross the railway anywhere and at any time, but at these hotspots, the leaps should make for a quicker, easier and safer crossing for the deer.

“Installation of these leaps promotes deer welfare across the estate, while maintaining a safe and secure railway for the public.”

Duncan Bentley, Gamekeeper of the Achentoul Estate commented:

“Deer Management is an essential part of the eco system in the area and these measures will safeguard the deer and public safety on the railway line whilst ensuring deer will still be able to move about freely and reduce the number of potential accidents to them.

“Everyone at Achentoul Estate is grateful for the cooperation and understanding shown by Network Rail in installing deer leaps on the Estate.”

Deer are wild animals and move around depending on the seasons, weather, food availability and to mate and calve, frequently crossing the railway where fencing has been breached or is low in height. They also can be startled into harms way by walkers, dogs, cyclists and vehicles.

If they are inside Network Rail’s boundary fence and see or hear a train, and with no learned route out, the deer can on occasion try to outrun the train down the track rather than jump out of harm’s way and out of the railway. Sadly, on occasion, this has resulted in their death.

Deer leaps provide an easier and quicker route over the new fences and allow them to get back out onto the safe side of the tracks. Smaller deer (roe deer and red deer calves) especially will find it easier to cross fences at these locations.

This will be the most leaps installed in Scotland in a single area to date.

Where possible onsite, the leaps will be largely built from the redundant fence materials that would otherwise be disposed of. This is a sustainable re-use of life expired materials and will off-set some of the costs.

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