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Study Tracks Deer Movement on Interstate 280

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UC Davis

A deer using an underpass on Interstate 280 near Edgewood Park.

Commuters on the Peninsula depend on Interstate 280 to get to and from San Francisco, but increasingly, it’s putting them in the path of wildlife. Biologists are tracking deer along the highway in the hope of preventing dangerous collisions.

Driving north on 280, it’s not hard for Fraser Schilling to spot the danger. "We just saw a pair of deer on the side of the highway within a few feet of the fast-moving traffic," he says.

Schilling is with UC Davis’s Road Ecology Center. He’s looking for deer on a stretch of highway near San Mateo where the pavement is wide open to the grassy hills.  When they find a deer, a team from California’s Department of Fish and Game sedates the animal and fits it with a GPS tracking collar.

Department biologist Cristin Langner says wildlife collisions are common here. "CHP reported that there was close to 20 along this small stretch of road just in itself last year. It is a lot of times deadly, for both parties."

The team has tracked more than a dozen deer in the area for the past six months. Schilling says they aren’t afraid of the highway and are rarely more than a quarter-mile away from it.  He’s working with Caltrans on potential solutions.

"What we can do is fence. Eight-foot fencing will keep deer out as long as they have ways to get under the highway from one side to the other. And we have a lot of existing underpasses," says Schilling.

Schilling says they're hoping to learn how deer are already using those underpasses and whether any new ones are sorely needed.

Six Month Tracking Data of Four Deer Near Interstate 280

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