Elk Warning System First In United States

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On the Town of Star Valley's logo, a picture of an elk is prominently displayed because the animal is a common sighting within the town.

Unfortunately, elk are also a common sighting on the highway that runs through Star Valley as well, creating a hazard for motorists.

The Arizona Department of Transportation knew of the elk population in Star Valley well before that logo was created.

ADOT has been working on a system to warn motorists traveling on Highway 260 when elk or other large animals are present on the outskirts of Star Valley.

The alarm system will be placed about one mile east from the Diamond Points Shadow restaurant.

Tom Goodman of ADOT is in charge of this project, and believes it will be completed sometime in November.

The project includes two large, infrared cameras, a video grid system and other controls.

The project will cost about $700,000 and is being funded by the Federal Highway Administration.

When an elk or other large animal is spotted by the system, lights will start flashing in both directions to let motorists know an animal is crossing or is close to the side of the road and could cross at any moment.

Goodman said the project is a cooperative effort between ADOT, Game and Fish, the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Highway Administration.

He said an electric fence is another part of the project that keeps elk from crossing in other areas.

The goal is for the animals to follow the fence to a large area that the four agencies have cleared of brush and trees. The animals will then be clearly visible.

Goodman believes the flashing lights are an ideal way to warn motorists of what may be ahead.

"I think the lights stay on as long as the cameras continue to pick up the animal," he said.

Goodman said he was not around when this area in Star Valley was picked as the location for this project, but added it is safe to say the location was selected because of the number of elk that have been spotted in the area.

Goodman said this project is the first of its kind in the United States. The positive impacts will not be known for some time.

"It will be a two-year experiment," he said. "We will look at before and after accidents."

The construction of the project began in April with the building of the electric fence and the clearing of the land so the animals could be spotted more easily.

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