Researchers at the University of Alberta have developed a novel, inexpensive, and compact system to alert wildlife to approaching trains, increasing the time available to avoid a collision.
Rail-caused mortality of wildlife is increasing with the footprint of railways and the speed of trains around the world, often occurring in protected areas with adjacent wildlife habitat and sometimes affecting species of conservation concern.
This train-triggered alert system consists of a series of wirelessly connected devices that emit light and sound to alert animals of an approaching train. The system is designed to deploy warnings precisely 30 seconds before trains arrive at a location of high collision risk, similar to warning systems for people at road–rail crossings. The consistency of the warning makes it possible for animals to anticipate trains they may otherwise fail to detect, allowing animals to leave the track area before being surprised by a train that could cause a panic-like maladaptive response. Warning devices are likely to be most effective in locations where animals cross the tracks frequently or where complex landscapes make train detection especially difficult. The system may be especially helpful for herding animals, such as deer and elk, and habit-forming animals, such as bears.
This technology could be of use to transportation companies as well as organizations working towards the protection of wildlife.