Friday, April 18, 2014
Researchers at the University of Maine are developing computerized street lights designed to help drivers avoid hitting moose.
More than 550 moose-automobile crashes have been reported annually in Maine over the last decade, with at least 22 deaths during that time period.
The Associated Press/Robert Bukaty
SATURDAY'S MOOSE LOTTERY
• Maine's annual moose lottery will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday at Greenville High School.
• More than 52,000 people applied for permits for the hunt held from late September until late November in various parts of the state. Only 4,110 permits will be allotted.
• For more information, go to www.mefishwildlife.com.
The new lights are being developed this month at UMaine in response to the deadly problem that persists in remote parts of the state.
The computerized street lights are expected to help drivers spot and avoid moose on dark roadways. The lights are the first of their kind and one of two new methods of flagging moose crossings that are expected to be used more by the Maine Department of Transportation.
The solar-powered lights would be installed in remote areas, turning on when vehicles approach and turning off after they pass, saving power for only when motorists need to see the road - and any moose on the side of it.
"It is a lot less expensive to do it this way than to have the lights on all the time," said Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation.
On Saturday, Maine's annual Moose lottery will allocate 4,110 hunting permits -- the most in 30 years -- to help cull the herd in the fall. Hunters have a success rate of 80 to 90 percent.
Still, Maine has the largest moose population in the continental United States, an estimated 76,000 statewide.
On average, more than 550 moose-automobile crashes have been reported annually in Maine in the last decade. Moose crashes caused two deaths last year and 22 in the last decade.
Transportation officials are working to cut the number of crashes, and plan to use new technology in the next year to address the problem in the forested areas where moose thrive.
"We are trying different methods and will continue to try different methods," said Talbot. "We also put in reflective lights last year as part of road work being done. We need a couple more seasons to really judge if that is effective."
While Talbot said moose crashes have declined across Maine in the past decade because of increased education and signage -- from more than 600 to fewer than 500 a year -- state officials estimate that there are more moose in Maine than they previously believed.
Three years ago, they estimated there were 31,000. State biologists now estimate Maine's moose population at far more than double that estimate, or 76,000, said Doug Rafferty with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
'I NEVER SAW IT'
Daniel Dionne of Madawaska knows the feeling of fear and helplessness that comes with a head-on collision with a moose.
In October, near his home at the northern tip of Maine, Dionne was driving his 1998 GMC pickup truck 65 mph along a pitch-black stretch of road at night. Before he knew what was happening, an enormous bull moose and its antlers crashed through his windshield, stopping inches from Dionne's face.
He suffered only scrapes on his face and neck, and considers himself lucky. Three of his friends have died in collisions with moose in Aroostook County.
"If I was in a car, (the moose) would have rolled over and crushed me, I guarantee it," Dionne said. "I live in moose country. Over the years, I've always said to myself, 'I don't care when I see a moose, I will be able to take action. I'll take precautions and be able to handle it.' I always thought when people hit a moose it was because they were not attentive. But as it turns out, the one I hit, I never saw it. That's how fast it happened."
Moose are often on the move and they are known for stepping into roadways unexpectedly.
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