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Evaluation of acoustic wildlife warning device to prevent collisions on SBB railway tracks

In 2013, acoustic wildlife warning devices were installed along railway tracks in the Canton of Uri. The devices were designed to keep animals away from railway tracks by producing whistling noises. For this project, thermal imaging cameras have been used to determine which species are present within the vegetated areas along the railway and whether the animals cross the tracks. Furthermore, the animals’ reaction to the acoustic wildlife warning devices is closely monitored.

Thermal imaging cameras can be used to document the behaviour of wild animals on the SBB railway line.

Wildlife warning devices installed on the line poles (yellow circles) are triggered by the headlights of the approaching train and emit a whistle sound.

Red deer, foxes and row deers crossing the rails

Red deer on the rail.

Conclusion of the study: The time difference between escape behaviour and train passage is relevant for the probability of a collision. The earlier an escape behaviour is triggered, the better the chances that an animal can move away from the danger zone in time. This time difference was zero seconds for red deer and roe deer in most cases, i.e. escape behaviour was only triggered when the passing train was already at the same height as the animal. An effectiveness of the installed acoustic wildlife warning devices could not be proven. If the animals perceive the warning signal as such, the remaining reaction time is too short for them to safely move away from the danger zone.

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