Researchers from the Railway Technical Research Institute in Japan have equipped a train with a speaker that plays the sounds of dogs barking and deer snorting to protect deer from harm. A three-second deer snort is played first to catch the attention of any nearby deer, followed by 20 seconds of dog barking to scare the animals away. So far, late-night tests of the anti-deer device have proven successful, resulting in a reduction in deer sightings by half. If further evidence supports the practice, it may be adopted more broadly, though the deer-dog combo noise would likely not be blasted in residential areas.
Deer fatalities by train have proven to be a challenge because the animals are attracted to train tracks. To meet their iron dietary needs, deer lick the tracks to pick up iron filings that have formed through friction between the train wheels and the tracks. The transport ministry of Japan reports that in 2016, there were 613 cases of trains hitting deer and other wild animals, a record high number, with each collision resulting in delays of 30 minutes or more.
There have been several attempts to make railroads less attractive spots for deer, including spraying lion feces along the tracks. This plan was abandoned after rain washed away the animal waste products almost immediately. Another more successful plan involved the use of ultrasonic waves, projected when a train is coming to deter animals, then dropped when the coast is clear to regulate the use of the train tracks. Trials of this technology resulted in a notable decrease in deer deaths. For this, railway employee Yuki Hikita was awarded Japan’s Good Design Award in December 2017.