A ‘beaver pass’ has been constructed under a railway line in Perthshire to protect animals.
Network Rail engineers have created the tunnel, thought to be the first of its kind in Scotland, under the Highland Main Line to help protect beavers passing under the railway.
The tunnel will also prevent flooding issues caused by the species building dams across the railway’s drainage culverts under the line, which allows water to flow under the railroad.
A pipe has been inserted through an existing drain, with wild mesh fitted either side .
This is to protect the railway but also allows the movement of surrounding wildlife.
There is a growing beaver population in the Tay catchment around Perth but their presence has impacted the rail network.
A flooding issue was caused near Gleneagles when a resident pair of beavers damned a culvert under the track.
The culvert was blocked by part of a beaver lodge, flooding an area of land which formed part of the SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), designated for wet woodland scrub and fen meadow habitats.
Once cleared, the beaver pass was installed with wild mesh fitted at either side of the tunnel, in line with SEPA‘s guidelines.
James Morrison, ecologist with Network Rail Scotland, said: “To a beaver, a culvert probably looks like a hole in a dam, the barriers they build to restrict the flow of water, so they are very popular damming spots.
First beaver pass in Scotland
“The action we took near Gleneagles is the first beaver pass installed in the country that we are aware of.
“It is a repeatable solution which works to protect Scotland’s railway as well as safeguarding the beaver populations and other wildlife.
“The beavers will naturally expand across Scotland and as they do it is possible they could occasionally impact Network Rail’s infrastructure through felling trees on to the line, flooding caused by their dams or burrowing into railway embankments.
“However, they are an important keystone species and we need a proactive approach and sensitive solutions that allow us to co-exist.”
European Protected Species
Dr Roo Campbell, a member of NatureScot’s beaver mitigation team, said: “Beavers are an important component of a healthy ecosystem.
“Their presence usually brings a host of benefits, including creating ponds and wetlands where other species thrive, alleviating downstream flooding, and improving water quality.
“But occasionally they can cause issues.
“Our team advise on and provide mitigation against beaver issues across Tayside, but this situation is definitely one of the most challenging we’ve faced.
“We are pleased that Network Rail have been so proactive in working to live with the beavers at the site. NatureScot will continue to monitor the effect the beavers have on the SSSI.”