Wildlife walking near Tassajara Creek in San Luis Obispo County, CA will be given a mild shock if they walk on four roads leading to a four lane highway. Electrified pads have been installed in road surfaces to deter large wild animals like bears and deer from walking over the highway 101 corridor where eight bears and many more deer have been struck by cars and killed in the last five years. Collisions with large animals result in significant damage to motorists, their vehicles, and of course the animals who most often do not survive. (They also sometimes die slowly and painfully without any medical intervention.)
A study conducted by the USDA found electrified ground mats can be effective deterrents against wild deer movement: “Intrusions of deer across a prototype electronic mat were reduced an average of 95% from pretreatment levels.” (Source: USDA.gov)
Solar panels are the energy source for the animal shocking system made up of Electro Mats. Wildlife fencing is also being installed to replace barbed wire, and several escape ramps will be built so the animals don’t get stuck in between the fencing and roads. Total cost of the project is $500,000. While it may sound steep, if you factor in the potential cost of human and animal lives from collisions that might be prevented, it will likely be a sound investment. Not to mention the cost of emergency personnel when collisions occur. (Even a relatively short medi-vac helicopter ride can cost $5,000.)
The project isn’t the first in the US to use the technology. A similar system was installed at a New Mexico location where there was a high rate of animal collisions, in 2007. The New Mexico system can deliver a 6,000-7,000 volt shock for 3/10,000th of a second, though voltage of the California system hasn’t been stated. The Electro Mats in California will not shock people when they drive over them in a car, or walk over wearing shoes. It can shock people walking barefoot, but it is not harmful — only briefly painful. One would hope the system will include motion detectors and video cameras to record wild animal behavior where the electrified pads are to document their effectiveness.