Animal detection systems: What's the frequency?

Renee Seidler MS, Idaho Department of Fish and Game; Tim Cramer, MS, Idaho Transportation Department
Date From
Date To
Golden State


  • Jeff Gagnon, Arizona Game and Fish Department
  • Tim Hazlehurst, CrossTek Wildlife Solutions
  • Marcel Huijser, Montana State University
  • Daniel Smith, University of Central Florida
  • Hao Xu, University of Nevada Reno
  • Kelly McAllister, Washington Department of Transportation
  • Leonard Sielecki, British Columbia Ministry of Transportation
  • Nova Simpson, Nevada Department of Transportation
  • Danielle Backman, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks


Animal detection systems have been tested across the globe as a means to warn motorists that an animal is on the road with the goal of reducing driver speed and increasing attentiveness, resulting in fewer wildlife-vehicle collisions. There are three basic components to these systems: 1) sensors that detect the presence of an animal on or near the road, 2) the detection triggers and relays a signal to a receiver and 3) the receiver activates a sign to display a pre-programmed message to drivers. Despite seemingly simple concepts, the technology is not simple when deployed in a real setting. To date, many still consider animal detection systems as experimental. The first hurdle when deploying animal detection systems is to ensure that the system is working correctly in the face of many environmental factors. Curves, changes in elevation, vegetation, inclement weather, side roads and vehicles, can all complicate how the system performs. False negative detections and false positive detections can mislead drivers which can lead to complacency and distrust in a system. Sometimes it can take months to years to calibrate a system to an acceptable performance level. In that time, drivers may become conditioned to ignore the warnings. Yet, in some applications, animal detection systems have been successful at reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions, improving safety for motorists. Some of the newest animal detection systems use advanced technology such as radar and infrared that are integrated with image detection software. Past research has shown that the message on warning signs matters, and that associated advisory or mandatory speed limit reductions may be important, but our understanding of the most effective message to influence a driver's ability to acknowledge risk and react to potential hazards is limited. With this extraordinary technology, why are animal detection systems not more widely used to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions? What are the goals of animal detection systems? And, importantly, when animal detection systems perform effectively, are there shortcomings to this type of mitigation? This panel of experts have all been involved in testing, utilizing, designing, and/or evaluating animal detection systems in various settings across North America. They each have a unique perspective on the science, technology, human dimensions and ecological implications that surround animal detection systems. They will provide a brief background regarding their experience on this topic and then they will entertain specific questions about animal detection systems, first from me, followed by an interactive dialogue with you, the audience. Once we open up the floor, we hope that you will not only ask questions but perhaps share your experience and expertise on animal detection systems as well.

Renee Seidler has been Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s (IDFG) first State Transportation Specialist for the last two years. In this role, she develops and provides data regarding wildlife-vehicle conflict to help IDFG and the Idaho Transportation Department create mitigation that can reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and increase wildlife movement. Previously, Renee was an Associate Conservation Scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society. She received her Master’s degree in Wildlife Biology from Utah State University in 2008 and her Bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Microbiology from Arizona State University.

Jeff Gagnon has worked for Arizona Game and Fish Department since 1998 and is currently a Statewide Research Biologist focusing primarily on wildlife-highway interactions throughout Arizona and other states. Jeff received his Master’s degree through Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff Arizona, studying the effects of traffic volumes on wildlife movements. Jeff specializes in implementation and evaluation of innovative solutions to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions while maintaining habitat connectivity for numerous species. Examples of projects Jeff has been involved with include the State Route 260 Wildlife Crossings and Animal Detection System, and US Highway 93 and State Route 77 Wildlife Overpass projects.

Tim Hazlehurst, President of CrossTek Companies, University of Vermont graduate in Animal Science . Mr. Hazlehurst is recognized worldwide as an expert in the field of electric animal deterrence research and product development since 1985. Over the past 30 years, as product developer and company builder, Mr. Hazlehurst has lead domestic and international based companies through the use of innovative strategies and technologies to create cost effective solutions to unsolved wildlife and human conflict issues. CrossTek’s mission is reducing wildlife vehicle collisions, promoting habitat connectivity and preventing harm to wildlife and people by designing and installing reliable and effective versions of roadway deterrents and high grade detection and warning systems.

Dr. Marcel Huijser is a senior road ecology researcher at the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University, USA. He leads a range of road and wildlife related projects for state and federal governments, counties, foundations, and other funders. Marcel has investigated the reliability and effectiveness of animal detection systems that alert drivers to the presence of large mammals along highways since 2002.

Dr. Daniel Smith is a research associate and member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Biology at the University of Central Florida. He serves as chair of the National Academies Transportation Research Board Subcommittee on Ecology and Transportation and is a member of the USFWS Florida Panther Recovery Program’s Sub-team on Transportation Issues. He has 25+ years of experience in the fields of ecology and environmental planning. His primary focus is studying movement patterns and habitat use of terrestrial vertebrates and integrating conservation, transportation and land-use planning.

Dr. Hao Xu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. His research areas include collection and analysis of roadside LiDAR data, vehicle operation cost evaluation, driving behavior analysis with naturalistic driving study data, intelligent transportation systems including connected vehicles, and data-driven traffic safety analysis. Dr. Xu has been working with multidisciplinary researchers on autonomous/connected vehicles, cybersecurity of transportation systems and smart cities.

Kelly McAllister is WSDOT’s Fish and Wildlife Program Manager. He served as the agency’s Habitat Connectivity Biologist for 11 years and was promoted in June 2018. The Fish and Wildlife Program employs staff dedicated to habitat connectivity, wildlife law compliance, and Endangered Species Act consultations. Prior to going to work for WSDOT, Kelly was a District Wildlife Biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife where he did extensive work with prairie-associated wildlife like the Mazama pocket gopher and Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. He conducted a long term study of the Oregon spotted frog in the Black River drainage of Thurston County, Washington. He started his career in January, 1980, helping build the Nongame Program (now Wildlife Diversity Division) of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Kelly received a bachelor’s degree with a major in Fisheries from the University of Washington. He has two children and three grand-children two horses and a miniature Australian Shepherd.

Dr. Leonard E. Sielecki manages the Wildlife Program of the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (BCMOTI). Since 1996, Dr. Sielecki has been the Province of British Columbia's subject matter expert on wildlife accident monitoring and mitigation.  Leonard coordinates BCMoTI's wildlife accident mitigation initiatives, ranging from social media and stakeholder outreach, to wildlife exclusion systems and wildlife detection systems.  At the University of Victoria (UVIC), Dr. Sielecki developed the Wildlife Hazard Warning System®.  His personal research interests include developing artificial intelligence (AI) applications for predicting and communicating wildlife hazard potentials on roads and highways to motorists.

Nova Simpson has worked with the Nevada Department of Transportation for 10 years. She manages the biological needs of projects including compliance with laws and regulations applicable to federal and state protected species.  As the Mitigation Specialist she created a program to reduce animal-vehicle collisions, increase driver safety, and decrease habitat fragmentation caused by roadways.  This program includes a statewide prioritization of problem areas, integration into early project planning, and public education.  She received her Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences with a focus on Road Ecology and a Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Management, both from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Danielle Backman (MS) is the Environmental Assessment Scientist for Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks/Parcs Nationaux et des Glaciers, Revelstoke BC.