Wildlife is posing an obstacle to rural night trains, particularly in Mie Prefecture, where drivers are forced to slow down to avoid hitting deer, boar and even monkeys.
So much wildlife converges on the tracks between Takihara Station in the town of Odai and Aso Station in Taiki, it sometimes resembles a nighttime safari, officials said.
Yozo Oue, deputy stationmaster of Kii Nagashima Station in Kihoku, said night trains on the Kisei Line of Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) have to proceed with caution because deer suddenly appear in the headlights and are not scared away by train horns.
Railroad kills can cause frequent delays, he said.
“Trains run behind schedule because it takes about 10 minutes to clear a deer carcass from the tracks and conduct a safety inspection,” Oue said.
Some deer have even charged trains’ headlights.
According to Hokkaido Railway Co., JR Tokai, West Japan Railway Co. and Japan Freight Railway Co., mountain trains strike an average of about 1,940 deer a year.
JR Tokai has tried everything from erecting right-of-way fences, including with electrified wire, and spraying the droppings of predators to keep deer clear of tracks, but to no avail.
JR Tokai started hanging CDs and bags containing human hair along the Kisei Line around 1998, knowing the animals dislike lights and the smell of human hair. In addition, it installed electrified wire and 12 km of 2-meter high nets and fences to keep the deer away. Nevertheless, there were 472 deer strikes during fiscal 2007.
More than 40 cases were reported every year on the Kamaishi Line in Iwate Prefecture run by East Japan Railway Co. until it started using a repellent whose ingredients include lion droppings.
Initially, the railway just used droppings obtained from a zoo, but because the odor was too strong, it developed the repellent in cooperation with Iwate University and other parties.
The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said damage to crops caused by wild animals, particularly deer, amounts to about ¥20 billion a year. It said more than 5,000 hectares of forests have been destroyed by the ecological imbalance caused by a dearth of predators and deer eating all of the lower-level foliage.
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