Butte, MT--A Montana Wildlife Bureau laser-equipped truck is being used to reduce the rising incidence of roadkill-induced automobile accidents on the state's highways. The vehicle, equipped with a small industrial laser from Laser Test (Covina, CA), is being used in a pilot program to eliminate small animals in overpopulated habitats near heavily traveled highways. The effort is co-sponsored by WildAmerica, a Montana-based activist group advocating responsible wildlands and wildlife preservation and maintenance.
Overpopulation of several species, such as woodchuck, raccoon, porcupine, and opossum, in recent years has resulted in proportional increases in roadkill tonnage on Montana highways. Because these animals grow rather big in Big Sky country--some weigh in at 15 lb--a run-in with them on the road can damage a vehicle or even cause a driver to lose control. Subsequent vehicles passing the roadkill site often swerve to avoid the remains, generating further accidents. Officials estimate that in the last two years, nearly 1,000 accidents have resulted from initial and secondary roadkill incidents--20 involving fatalities to drivers and passengers, in addition to the animals.
The truck-mounted laser, pointed out the right side, can eliminate nuisance animals up to 50 ft from the roadway. The laser is computer-controlled and boresighted to aim within the field of view an infrared camera that detects any animal. Data Exclusive (Gardner, MA) image-acquisition shape-recognition software determines if an animal is within the field of view and within effective range of the laser, triggering the beam. Backup is provided by an operator who activates the system when a prospective target is seen as the truck drives along at around 30 mph. Initially a visible-light camera was used, but developers say it gave more false positives, resulting in small brush being set alight. The infrared system homes in on an animal's body heat for virtually 100% effectiveness.
WildAmerica, when approached initially by the commission, was nonplused at the idea. But when shown the accident statistics, as well as the quickness of the device, the group felt it was more humane than the alternative, which could leave animal accident victims thrashing about the pavement for minutes and even hours before succumbing. Lance Piech, head of the group, says, "This system balances our concern for nature as well as our most precious resource, people."
An interesting sidelight to three months of testing this past spring was that operators noticed vultures and buzzards quickly learned to follow the van on its test runs in the Brazos and Butte areas. WildCom officer Curt Freeze says it was apparent that "the fresh killed and cooked carrion is a gourmet treat to these buzzards." The test crew also was able to provide itself with lunches of partridge and quail on several occasions, which tasted somewhat like flavorful barbecued chicken.
Several other states are considering the roadkill eliminating system. Texas has a particular problem with prairie dog communities of several hundred animals. System tests beginning in August will determine how the laser system functions in such a target-rich environment.
--A Design News crack staff report
A steel-reinforced square concrete column measuring a total of 10 inches on each side is reinforced by 4 bars each having a cross-sectional area of 1 sq. inch. If the ratio of the modulus of elasticity of steel to that of concrete is 10:1, what percentage of an axial load applied to the column is carried by the steel?
A. 4% B. 9% C. 29% D. 91% E. 100%--Answer below
Selected from Fundamentals of Engineering Examination, copyright 1986, Eugene L. Boronow, M.E.E., P.E., Simon & Schuster, Inc., NY. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.