Our wild detection dogs help on our construction sites to detect protected species. | © DB AG/Faruk Hosseini

Winning by a nose

A dog has about 220 million olfactory cells, giving them a sense of smell far, far better than ours. Deutsche Bahn intends to make good use of this talent by relying on certified sniffer dogs to locate wildlife at our construction sites in the future. 

Reliable four-legged colleagues 

Conservation plays an important role in our construction projects. Before we start building, we create what is known as a "wildlife map", which lets us see if protected animals live on the construction site. We can take appropriate measures if we find any. Normally, our experts inspect the area and keep a lookout for any animals that might be living there, such as sand lizard or bats. However, it is not possible to spot everything: a building might have a lot of nooks and crannies, the construction site might be very overgrown, or the animals might not be active during a certain time of the day or year. This is where our sniffer dogs come in: their sense of smell is perfect for identifying other animals even if the latter are not readily visible. 

Specially trained sleuths

We have launched a pilot project that puts our dogs through a special training course. They learn to work with our species mappers and find sand lizards, smooth snakes and other small creatures by tracking their scent. At the same time, our colleagues have to learn about the target species' biological traits and how to map sites without their four-legged assistants. It takes some twelve months to complete this training, which ends with a test that covers theory and practice alike.  Afterwards, the handlers and dogs are qualified to perform mapping duties at DB. The relevant regional authorities are closely involved in this qualification process. 

Working on construction sites

The dog handlers are in action with the dogs right from the training phase. Their role will be to support ongoing construction projects and help map the presence of wildlife. For example, during the planned construction of the new ICE depot in Dortmund, we sent our specially trained sniffer dogs Storm and Monte to search for bats and sand lizards, yellow-bellied toads and smooth snakes. The dog handlers and their four-legged friends spent three days locating the target species on the 25-hectare site.

With their sensitive noses, our canine colleagues can sniff out what often escapes the human eye. The dogs work quickly, precisely and independently without being affected by weather or by the target animals' activity levels. The dogs' skills are the ideal complement to conventional mapping work, and their contribution can make all the difference when clarity is needed. To save the locations, we record the coordinates using a tablet and store them in a database. This way, we know which animals live where on the site and can relocate the relevant species in good time before construction begins. And the species on our construction sites are not the only ones to benefit from this. Using these specially trained sniffer dogs also helps us cut costs and save time.

Our puppies get a special training as a wild detection dog.