Radar could help drivers avoid wildlife collisions

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KETCHUM, Idaho (AP) — Radar technology used to protect military convoys can be adapted to help central Idaho drivers avoid collisions with deer and elk on State Highway 75, a company says.

"This is technology adapted from military use to animal detection," Sloan Security Technologies company co-founder Brian Sloan said about the equipment initially used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He presented his ideas last week to Blaine County officials and the Idaho Transportation Department, the Idaho Mountain Express reported (http://bit.ly/1pgINM1 ). The mobile radar animal-detection system alerts drivers with flashing lights when animals are present, he said.

There are two resident elk herds a few miles north of Hailey, officials said. Hailey has an airport that serves the region and the resort towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley about 12 miles to the north. The region is in the Wood River Valley, which has high hills and mountains on both sides with State Highway 75 cutting through the middle.

The system last winter was used for three months in northern Idaho on U.S. Highway 95 south of Bonners Ferry, and there were no reported collisions with animals, Sloan said.

The mobile system includes a small rectangular radar on top of a 25-foot pole attached to a trailer, he said. The system detects movement and can distinguish between a vehicle and animals. Thermal cameras can be added to detect animals standing in the road, Sloan said.

A basic system north of Hailey will cost about $30,000. A system that includes cellular data that allows remote monitoring will cost about $45,000.

"That's a significant outlay," said Roger Olson, a member of the county's Wildlife Crossing Committee and a former Department of Fish and Game Conservation Officer. "For that, we should be almost assured that it's going to do what we expect it to do."

Nathan Jerke, a spokesman for the Idaho Transportation Department, said the idea was intriguing but still in the experimental stage.

Officials last fall reduced the speed limit north of Hailey from 55 mph to 45 mph. Kaz Thea, a Wildlife Crossing Committee member, said the lower limit has cut the number of collisions with wildlife.


Information from: Idaho Mountain Express, http://www.mtexpress.com

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