A new smart phone app is helping UDOT and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources work together to improve safety.
The new Utah Wildlife Vehicle Collision Reporter is a tool that helps track and categorize animals that are hit by vehicles on state routes. The app is for use on GPS enabled smart phones that are used by UDOT contractors who pick up carcasses from state roads. UDOT and DWR both need the information to identify where improvements, such as wildlife crossings and fencing, are needed. “It’s the single most important data set we use,” says Ashley Green, UDWR Wildlife Coordinator for Statewide Projects.
Habitat Biologist Doug Sakaguchi with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has helped track high wildlife-vehicle hit areas since 2005. Data shows fewer hits have occurred in areas where new wildlife crossings and fences have been installed over the past seven years. Crossings and connected fencing work together to direct wildlife through crossings.
In the past, Green says that staff spent many hours entering data. Sometimes, important data was lost, forgotten or duplicated. Eventually, Green realized that a better system was needed so UDWR employees could spend less time entering data “and have more time to analyze data to make recommendations on making wildlife mitigations.”
The app was the idea of a graduate student at Utah State University who is conducting research at several locations around the state. He proposed the idea for the app to UDOT and UDWR –employees at both agencies thought the idea was worth pursuing. With funding from UDOT, AGRC programmers designed the app, which works on Android and iPhone systems.
Paul West, UDOT’s Wildlife Program Manager makes recommendations for improvements aimed at protecting wildlife or threatened or endangered species for every UDOT project. He analyzes the data for “hot spots,” which represent an increase in wildlife hits. Those kinds of data spikes indicate where new crossings or fences are needed “now or in the future to correct that situation,” says West. Installing crossings and fencing needs to be done strategically in order to provide help where it’s needed most. Better data means better decisions about wildlife crossings can be made.
UDOT Engineer for Maintenance Methods Lynn Bernhard put together the contracts that require vendors to use the app. “Wildlife data is captured immediately at the exact time and place that the carcass is picked up and automatically transferred into the Division of Wildlife Resources database,” says Bernhard.
Using the app eliminates a lot of errors and simplifies the work of UDOT’s contractors. Workers who use the app only need to enter a few bits of information about the animal. The app populates the rest of the information, including mile marker, state route, UDWR region and other details, based on the GPS location.
UDOT and UDWR will continue to work together to make roads safer by reducing the number of vehicle-wildlife crashes, explains Bernhard, “and that’s what it’s all about, eliminating crashes.”
For more, view an AGRC presentation about the development of the app.