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WATCH: Network Rail backs deer leap escape route near railway line in Sutherland

By Caroline McMorran

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Network Rail has taken measures along a section of the rail line in north Sutherland to reduce the number of deer hit by trains.

Fifteen deer leaps have now been installed along the railway boundary on the line between Kinbrace and Forsinard. This is the most leaps installed in a single area in Scotland to date.

The leaps were created as part of a £200,000 investment to renew and upgrade the railway boundary. The work included replacing more than five miles of fencing.

Deer leaps were first introduced on an experimental basis in 2019 and offer an escape route for all deer, but particularly calves should they inadvertently become trapped on the line.

The rail line between Kinbrace and Forsinard has the highest number of dear leaps of any single area in Scotland.
The rail line between Kinbrace and Forsinard has the highest number of dear leaps of any single area in Scotland.

A calf and its mother will rarely separate and should the juvenile become stuck on the railway, then its mum will not leave it, putting them both at risk from trains.

The leaps have been placed at areas where it is obvious deer regularly congregate and cross the railway.

Network Rail worked closely with Achentoul Estate gamekeeper Duncan Bentley to identify the deer crossing points.

Installing the leaps involves changing the ground level at either side of the fence bordering the railway line.

Deer account for around a fifth of the animals struck by trains on the Scottish rail network every year.

It is hoped that the introduction of the deer leaps will help cut the death rate. The deer should quickly learn the easier crossing routes and use them in preference.

Network Rail senior asset engineer Jonathan Callis said: "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.”

Achentoul gamekeeper Duncan Bentley said: “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."

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