PHILLIP Island’s first ‘virtual fence’ is now active on a section of Cowes-Rhyll Road.
Bass Coast Shire Council has been working to reduce wildlife deaths on roads and to improve road safety, particularly on Phillip Island, which presents a unique challenge, with increasing wildlife numbers and vehicles on the roads. The virtual fence has been installed for a 12-month trial and is aimed at reducing the number of wildlife killed on Phillip Island.
The project, which began in April 2019, is a collaboration between council, Victoria University, Phillip Island Nature Parks and citizen scientist Ron Day. The project has also been supported by Phillip Island Wildlife Rescue and Regional Roads Victoria.
Council allocated $30,000 to help fund the trial in its 2019/20 Capital Works Budget, in response to a submission from Mr Day.
A virtual fence is a series of devices attached to guide posts along the side of the road. When headlights from an approaching vehicle hit the device (from up to 300 metres away), an audible alarm and flashing LED lights are triggered. This combination of noise and light is aimed at deterring wildlife from the road, before the vehicle gets there.
Virtual fencing has been successful in reducing the number of Tasmanian Devils being struck in high-risk areas around Tasmania by up to 50 per cent.
From April 2019, research was carried out by students from Victoria University, with support from Nature Parks, council and Mr Day on the trial section of Cowes-Rhyll Road.
Investigations into a wide variety of factors were completed, including adjacent property fencing, animal tracks, vegetation, waterways, topography and road geometry, to identify external factors on the locations that wildlife are crossing.
The research also included regular surveys, to establish a baseline of how many and what types of wildlife were being struck and killed in this area.
These surveys will continue for the next 12 months, now the virtual fence has been installed. Once the trial is complete, the significant amount data gathered will enable the researchers to accurately determine the effectiveness of the virtual fencing.
This trail will inform research that may lead the way for the technology to be introduced to other areas in Bass Coast and across Australia.