By: Jeffrey Lapin
Initial findings from a study of the deer fence that was placed along portions of Interstate 80 between Lincoln and Omaha seem to indicate that it had reduced the number of crashes vehicles and deer. The fence, along with wildlife undercrossings, were installed along I-80 in 2011 by the Nebraska Department of Roads. It was the first of its kind in Nebraska.
NEBRASKA VEHICLE-DEER COLLISIONS
According to the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, in 2011, with regard to animal-vehicle collisions::
- 3,507 reported animal-related vehicle crashes (a decrease of 23 from 2010);
- 3,152 reported deer-vehicle crashes (an increase of 29 from 2010);
- 4 fatalities due to a deer-vehicle crashes (an increase of 2 over 2010);
- 320 injuries from animal-related crashes
- The average economic costs for each animal-related crash death or serious injury:
- Per fatality: $1,410,000;
- Per nonfatal disabling injury: $70,200; and
- Per property-damage crash (including minor injuries): $8,900.
Nebraska has not reported the animal-related vehicle crash totals for 2012 yet. However, for the period January to July of 2012 there were:
- 1489 reported animal-related vehicle crashes;
- 1 fatality due to an animal-related crash; and
- 135 injuries caused by animal-related vehicle crashes.
NEBRASKA DEER FENCE
The Nebraska Department of Roads, in consultation with Nebraska Games and Parks Commission, had a fence installed, cameras placed, as well as improving several wildlife undercrossings, along a 4-mile stretch of Interstate 80 between the Mahoney State Park interchange and Pflug Road. This section of I-80 had the highest number of reported vehicle-deer collisions in Nebraska. The fence has both electrified and non-electrified portions along with “winged” entrances. In addition, the Department of Roads worked on the undercrossings, with the purpose of giving wildlife an improved way to cross to the other side without having to go onto the Interstate. Finally, cameras were installed in various placed to monitor wildlife and help study the effectiveness of the fence and undercrossings..
Below are some images of the location and fencing that the Department of Roads prepared with regard to the fence and undercrossings (click on an image for a larger view):
The fence, updated undercrossings and camera installations was completed in late 2011 at a cost of approximately $1.4 million. Brian Johnson, an interstate designer for the Nebraska Department of Roads, was the main person involved in the construction of the deer fence.
STUDY OF EFFECTIVENESS OF THE DEER FENCE
The Department of Roads had commissioned, at a cost of $120,000, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources to conduct a study to examine deer-vehicle collisions from 2004 through June 30, 2012. Scott Hygnstrom, Aaron Hildreth and William Lawyer III conducted the study, Effectiveness of Fences and Deer-use of Underpasses to Mitigate Deer-Vehicle Collisions on Interstate 80 in Eastern Nebraska. The Study, examining crash data, reports of road kill and the images, reported the followed:
- 85% decrease in the number of dead deer in the deer fence area since the fence was completed;
- There was a slight increase in collisions at two mile markers, but additional information is needed to determine whether they were a result of the fence;
- Deer mostly move through the valley late from night to early morning;
- June and December were the months with the most road kill and deer-vehicle collisions;
- Deer use of undercrossings was highest in June and November and lowest December-May; and
- “Wing” structures placed at fence ends were effective in deflecting deer away from the interstate.
The Study made some conclusions, including:
A combination of deer-proof fences and deer-friendly underpasses can be used by NDOR [Nebraska Department of Roads] to reduce roadkills and DVCs [deer vehicle collisions) in select areas. Monitoring roadkill and DVC data throughout the state can help determine collision hotspots. When roadways are being redesigned, modifications can be made to reduce collisions in problematic areas. Using fences in conjunction with underpasses will help maintain connectivity on the landscape that might be lost if fencing alone is used.
Mr. Johnson was quoted as saying, “We’re just realizing how important it is to put in a fence with an undercrossing. You can’t do one without the other.” He added that they project may be a model for other states with significant deer-vehicle crash problems.
Lead investigator Hygnstrom, when asked about the Study and deer fence:
In essence, we don’t want to jump to conclusions here, but it appears the fences have been very effective in reducing deer-vehicle collisions. … You might think there might be a one-to-one relationship between road kill and deer-vehicle collisions, but we don’t know for sure until we look at the data. … Most people are perceiving that the fences are working. …Efforts like this increase public health and safety, and that makes it a feel-good project.
The Department of Roads has extended the study for another year to further determine the effectiveness of the fence.
Information contained within this post comes from the following sources:
- Aaron M. Hildreth, William L. Lawyer III & Scott E. Hygnstrom / School of Natural Resources – University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Effectiveness of Fences and Deer-use of Underpasses to Mitigate Deer-Vehicle Collisions on Interstate 80 in Eastern Nebraska (link not available)
- Nebraska Department of Roads:
- NE Animal / Motor Vehicle Crashes by Type – 2001-2011
- Nebraska Department of Roads:
- Statewide Summaries of Nebraska Motor Vehicle Traffic Accidents – December 2011
- Nebraska Department of Roads:
- Statewide Summaries of Nebraska Motor Vehicle Traffic Accidents – July 2012
- Nebraska Office of Highway Safety: NE Cost Estimate for Animal-Involved Motor Vehicle Crashes – 2011
- Algis J. Laukaitis / Lincoln Journal Star: Study: I-80 deer fence doing its job
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