Can new technology put an end to deer death row?
by Beau Barton
Feb 02, 2011 | 2371 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Approximately 100 new DeerDeter devices, designed to frighten deer from oncoming cars at night, are being tested on a stretch of US 191 between Monticello and Blanding.  The devices, mounted on existing deliniator poles, flash a blue light and emit a high-pitched sound when they are illuminated by the lights of oncoming cars.  Staff photo
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A mangled deer carcass is a familiar sight to those traveling on Highway 191 between Monticello and Blanding. But following the installation of a new technology in May, 2010, one might notice a new spectacle on the sides of the road at night.

Twinkling blue lights now outline a one-mile hazardous stretch of highway north of Verdure that is dubbed, by some, “Deer Death Row.” The state of Utah has inserted DeerDeter devices in hopes of reducing crumpled cars and deceased deer.

DeerDeter, a solar-powered gadget produced by Jafa Technologies, is being tested by the Utah Department of Transportation to decrease the number of deer collisions with vehicles on the highway.

The device is mounted on roadside poles and emits a flashing light and a high-pitched sound when they are illuminated by vehicle headlights. These actions are meant to startle wandering deer and keep them off of roads and away from oncoming cars.

When asked about the device, UDOT spokesman Kevin Kitchen pointed out its low cost and convenient installation on pre-existing poles when compared to other roadside deer deterrents, such as fences and undercrossings.

Kitchen said that conclusive results are not yet available to prove that DeerDeter reduces collisions, “We want to see what they will do in every season of the year over a longer period of time.”

Linda Lewis, who lives near the test site, said she has noticed less dead deer where the lights are positioned. “They must emit something that the deer don’t like,” she said about the device and its ability to frighten the animals.

The device only works in the dark and does not deter deer during daylight hours. To aid in the test, UDOT has also placed infrared cameras at the test site to get video evidence of the device’s impact on deer at night.

Jafa Technologies reports that DeerDeter has reduced deer related accidents by 90 percent in some areas of Europe. In Utah, where wildlife collisions are on the rise, officials are hopeful that the device will work.

An estimated 300 deer are killed by vehicles each year on the 30-mile stretch between Peters Hill and Blanding. Between 2004 and 2009, the small stretch of road where the test is taking place had 130 deer deaths.

That’s enough venison to feast heartily every night for some time—provided you like your meat “grilled” and prefer a seasoning of asphalt instead of pepper.

Kitchen said that the data will be collected during all seasons of the year for at least two years before the results will be fully understood. Long-term studies may continue in order to test the gadget’s endurance and its overall effect on deer. “These devices need to stand the test of time,” he said.

Kitchen reports that in the broad scheme of things, DeerDeter may become a valuable highway safety tool to complement other devices. “We want to have quite a few tricks in our bag,” he said.

The lights and noises of DeerDeter have been called annoying and a distraction by some, but most agree it’s a nuisance they are willing to ignore if it keeps them from hitting an animal. Only time will tell if the device helps increase highway safety. In the meantime, there is no substitute for reduced speed and caution when traveling.
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