June 11, 2014

As all COWs know, deer are a fact of life in our Town and region. While deer are beautiful critters, they can also show their annoying side by munching on expensive landscaping that we would prefer they not eat, and their dangerous side by straying out into the road. The statistics are alarming, with 40 to 50 deer being struck by cars and trucks on 280 every year usually fatal for the deer, and often expensive and sometimes fatal for humans as well.

A recently completed study by a research group from UC Davis Road Ecology Center recommends that fencing off parts of 280 is a good way to reduce or eliminate these violent interactions between humans and deer. The study was funded by the California Department of Transportation and carried out by the UC Davis. The study ran for two years and cost more than $300,000. This project involved a combination of GPS-collaring deer, wildlife cameras, infrastructure characterization, and opportunistic tracking. Twenty-four deer found living within 1/4 mile of the right-of-way were fitted with GPS collars and tracked for 6 months each. They analyzed their habitat preferences, activity in relation to distance from the highway, and rate of crossing the right-of-way. They used cameras at 19 crossing structures and 6 wildlife trails to assess wildlife movement in relation to the structures and the relationship between human and animal use of these structures. Citizens of Woodside reported on this project back when it was proposed.

The research identified that the stretch of 280 between our Town and Millbrae has higher-than-average rates of animal-caused accidents due to all the combination of lush habitat and high speeds. There are three main trouble spots identified by the researchers – near Hillcrest Boulevard and Trousdale Drive, at Bunker Hill Drive, and just north of Farm Hill Boulevard. That’s familiar territory to us COWs.

The study recommends the construction of a massive fence along 280 as a way to prevent these incidents. A fence running along the highway on both sides for the length of the problem area is projected to cost about $4 million, or around $100,000 a mile. The fence would have to be 8 feet high along for entire length to be considered effective. It also recommended wildlife tunnels and overpasses accessible to animals along that stretch of I-280.

This is a serious safety issue. An estimated 1.23 million deer-vehicle collisions occurred in the U.S. between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, costing more than $4 billion in vehicle damage. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that 200 people die in deer-related crashes every year in this Country. We are reminded that in 2011, Daniel Strickland, a professor at Santa Clara University, died after his car hit a deer on I-280 and he was rear-ended by another car.

We value life above other things. However, cost, aesthetics, effectiveness and alternatives need to be considered. CalTrans has not made any decision yet but we urge them to seriously address the issue..

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