State program to step up monitoring of wildlife

A state grant will allow DOT employees and a contractor to more closely monitor the movement of wildlife along a rural stretch of U.S. 41 in Collier County.

The Roadside Animal Detection System, or RADS, was a first for Florida when it was unveiled in January along a 1.3-mile stretch of highway that cuts through Big Cypress National Preserve and has been especially deadly for endangered Florida panthers. Sensors that detect movement of wildlife trigger flashing lights to warn passing motorists.

Now a $450,000, two-year grant will allow the state to more fully move into the monitoring phase of the RADS program starting sometime this month, DOT spokeswoman Debbie Tower said. The grant will send workers from DOT and the contractor into the Everglades to periodically make observations on-site of wildlife movement, collect data from the system’s computer and examine video shot from surveillance cameras, she said.

In addition to this program, researchers from UCF’s Biology department are set to participate in a two-year monitoring study later this summer to see how well RADS is working. UCF Biologist Daniel Smith will be part of the study.

Researchers will survey drivers, look for animal tracks at spots where system logs show it has been triggered and purposely set off the sensors to see whether drivers really slow down, Smith said.

Read more about the state program here.

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