Jan 102012

Elk moving down from the hills around Golden Colorado have had suffered a roadkill problem for a while. These negative human-wildlife interactions cause significant vehicle damage (even injury/death) for the human, and even more significant injury (almost hopefully quick death) for the wildlife.

Road Sign alerting drivers to wildlife

Signs didn’t work (enough)

For years there have been “massive signs” saying watch for wildlife, but still the number of Elk carcasses (and presumably damaged cars) piled up. It was a very sad situation. Then, some smart folks at C-DOT brought technology to play…

The Elk Crossing (Solution)

Along both sides of the road a high Elk fence was built, and it had the (relatively new) “exit ramps”. These exit ramps slope on the inside (road side) but drop straight down on the outside. Elk/wildlife outside would not “climb a wall” to get in, but wildlife on the inside would be able to get out. Very nice. That said, the amazing part is the “elk crossing”

At a high/visible (and newly well lit) place a crossing was designed and designated with gaps in the fence. Motion sensors at each gap detect if a large animal (e.g. an Elk or Deer) were at the gap, and the crossing lights (flashing “slow down” signs) would engage for a few minutes. How excellent! Day or night these lights would alert drivers to an immediate and present danger. Not just some “Wildlife might be here some time” but “caution: wildlife are here/right now!

I’ve been fascinated by this experiment since I first noticed it, and I cannot believe I’ve not blogged about it before. For starters, every time I want to discuss it, I need something to link folks to so they can “see” (or read about) the crossing, with it’s neat design. I don’t have them now, but I’ll find photos (and/or stop take some) to illustrate the design and post them here.

Since this wildlife crossing as been active I’ve noticed a dramatically reduced number of carcasses. In fact, only one (and sadly on the crossing implying the technology or driver didn’t react fast enough) … but one is a massive reduction in damage. I suspect this system pays for itself in terms of reduced pain/suffering/damage for the people/property, and not to mention how it helps the Elk/Deer.

I do hope to see more of these in years to come.

Update: I found this paper on “advances in wildlife crossing” that has some good diagrams/explanations.