Field Evaluation of a Novel Fencing Design to Prevent DVCs

Researcher Jim Stickles fits a deer with a GPS collar.

The white-tailed deer is one of the most beloved animals in North America, and holds a special place in our hearts here at the University of Georgia (UGA) Deer Lab. However, each year in the United States, nearly 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions (DVCs) contribute to an estimated 29,000 injuries, 200 fatalities, and $3.6 billion of property damage and medical expenses. Since deer pose a substantial safety hazard and financial burden to motorists, the Georgia Department of Transportation has teamed up with the UGA Deer Lab to investigate methods of reducing DVCs in ways that are effective and economically feasible.

Deer activity and movement patterns play a vital role in DVCs. However, age and gender play a role in how deer behave. To investigate movement patterns expressed by deer of various ages and sexes and how they interact with high speed/high traffic roadways, we deployed GPS collars on 25 deer along a segment of I-20 in Madison, GA during the winter and spring of 2012 and 2013. During the summer of 2013 we will retrofit the current right-of-way (ROW) fence with an outrigger angled at 45 degrees away from the highway.The outrigger design should prevent deer from accessing the interstate, but it should also work as a one-way barrier, allowing deer to escape if they do gain access.  After the outrigger is installed, we will monitor deer movements for an additional year. Also, we are monitoring safe crossing areas and road kills on a regular basis. Finally, we will be monitoring costs and inspecting the fence regularly to determine economic feasibility and to make maintenance recommendations.

Eliminating DVCs is a bit far-fetched, but if the incidence of high-speed collisions on interstates can be reduced with an economical and effective fence design, then tax payers and motorists will save money. More importantly, human lives will be saved and fewer deer will be killed as well. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Principle investigator: Jim Stickles