In ecosystems across the country, the automobile has moved to the top of the food chain, meaning that thousands of moose, cougars, and bears are meeting their ends on asphalt. Now, the Colorado Department of Transportation is hoping that high-tech wild-life detectors might cut down on roadkill.
The testing site for the new detectors is a particularly deadly mile of Highway 160, where 70 percent of all reported collisions between 1999 and 2003 were between cars and animals. Part of the problem is that the stretch is smack in the middle of an important migration corridor for deer.
Officials buried cables along either side of the highway to emit an electromagnetic field. When a large animal enters the area and disturbs the field, the system triggers signs that flash “Wildlife Detected” to oncoming traffic. A separate sensor helps the system distinguish between wildlife and cars. The new detectors only sense large game, so small critters like raccoons and spotted salamanders will still need to look both ways.
Other roadkill prevention methods include fencing and laser sensors. But fencing would hinder migration routes and laser sensors can be triggered by falling snow and tumbleweed.
So will it work? We’ll know soon enough: The CDOT is monitoring traffic speed to see if the new system, which will cost about $1 million, actually causes drivers to slow down.
Image: flickr/ donjd2