UC proposes $4 million plan to prevent deer, car collisions

UC Davis researchers have proposed a $4 million plan to stop collisions between deer and cars on I-280 in San Mateo County.
December 18, 2013 6:34:59 PM PST
Driving up Interstate 280 can be a beautiful ride. But when cars and deer share the freeway it can be dangerous as well. Now, a UC study has proposed a solution -- 22 miles of fencing along 280 that will cost millions.

After fixing cars for decades, body shop manager Jim Pozzobon can usually tell what did the damage.

"This is a typical of accident that you'll have with a deer in a front end collision," he said.

This is the mild end of it. But at freeway speeds, Pozzobon says nine out of ten cars that hit a deer are totaled.

"Suspension damage, radiator, headlights," he said. "All that stuff is very costly to repair."

Pozzobon would know; his shop's just a stone's throw from the hotbed of deer collisions on Highway 280 in San Mateo County.

"It's not only deer, but sometimes we get mountain lions or all different animals that do happen to cross on the freeway," CHP Officer Art Montiel said.

While other freeways cut through jungles of concrete, this one slices a lush, green forest in half. It's a beautiful drive, until man literally collides with nature.

There's a field of science that studies that. It's called road ecology.

"Understanding wildlife and how wildlife move in relation to roads," said Professor Fraser Shilling.

He runs the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis. He spoke to us last year when they put GPS collars on two dozen deer and tracked them over a period of months.

Now, with the study complete, they've proposed a solution -- an eight-foot fence on either side of the road that's designed to make deer cross under the freeway instead of over it. It would cost taxpayers around $4 million.

The fence would flank a sprawling section of 280, centered here by the Crystal Springs Reservoir. You see, the researchers found a lot of the deer make their homes over here in the woods, but find their food over here in people's backyards.

"They've got their bedroom on one side, and the dining room on the other, so they're crossing back and forth," Shilling said.

The study found deer prefer to cross under the freeway, but not all of them know that underpasses exist. The fence would force them to learn.

It would look kind of like the fence behind Pozzobon's body shop, the one that keeps people off the train tracks. He thinks the deer fence might work.

"It may prevent some work from my door, but at least it saves the deer," he said.

Caltrans still has to decide if they'll take the recommendation.

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