DeerDeter promises to lessen deer-vehicle collisions
By Ben Coxworth
August 3, 2010
There’s a stretch of highway in Utah, where over 300 carcasses of car-struck deer were found in a single year. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has chosen part of that area to try out the DeerDeter Wildlife Crossing Guard. As you might have guessed from its name, the roadside device is designed to keep deer from wandering out onto nighttime roads as cars are approaching. When it detects oncoming headlights, the DeerDeter’s strobe lights and audio alarm system are activated, causing deer and other animals in its vicinity to keep their distance.
As the device is only triggered by oncoming headlights, it will not interfere with the passage of wildlife when no vehicles are nearby. Its audio alarm mimics the call of a predator or a deer’s cry of fear, while the lights are meant to resemble the moving reflective irises of a predator’s eyes. So animals won’t become desensitized to it, the DeerDeter can be programmed with a variety of sounds, including a high-frequency noise audible to deer but not to humans – this is for use in urban areas, where people might find its nocturnal screeches off-putting.
The device is encased in a weatherproof Plexiglas housing, and runs off batteries, solar cells, or both.
The Utah pilot project is a joint venture between U.S. distributor JAFA Technologies and Austrian product developer IPTE. UDOT bought 70 of the devices at a reduced price, and the companies threw in an extra 30 to ensure verifiable test results. Not only will UDOT be evaluating how implementation of the DeerDeter affects the carcass count, but they will also be setting up Infrared motion-activated cameras, to observe how the animals react when the alarms go off.
The DeerDeter has already been successfully tested in “an exceptionally hazardous area” in Springfield Township, New Jersey, and has been deployed by the Highway Authority in Denver, Colorado and Essex County, New Jersey. The current test area is a 1.5-mile section of Utah’s Highway 191, which lies within a wildlife corridor. In Austria, where 4,000 of the devices are already in use, they have reportedly reduced deer-vehicle collisions by 75 to 100 percent.