September 12, 2023

First trial of virtual fencing to reduce wildlife roadkill on NSW South Coast deemed a major success

A wombat in care. One of the species of animals that were regularly being struck by cars along Dunn’s Creek Road.

The first trial of a ‘virtual fence’ by a council in New South Wales has been a major success in improving driver safety and preventing wallabies, wombats and other wildlife from becoming roadkill.

One kilometre of ‘virtual fencing’ was installed along Cullendulla Drive north of Batemans Bay in October last year – a section of road notorious for its high number of wildlife fatalities and injuries. The road was selected after being identified through roadkill records as one of the area’s most significant hotspots.

One year on and the fence has been a lifesaver for animals, with the number of wildlife strikes attended by WIRES volunteers and council staff after the fence was installed dropping from up to five kangaroos and wallabies every week during the peak holiday season to just five animals in eight months.

The project was spearheaded by local community group, The Coastwatchers Association, in partnership with Eurobodalla Shire Council and WIRES volunteers, with funding support from Great Eastern Ranges (GER) and the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF-Australia).

The system, supplied by Wildlife Safety Solutions, consists of a series of poles set at 25-metre intervals along the road in a zigzag pattern. When a vehicle approaches, the headlights activate a sensor at the top of each pole which triggers it to make a sound and flash blue and yellow flashing lights creating a ‘virtual fence’ that alerts animals.

Natural Resource Supervisor at Eurobodalla Council Courtney Fink-Downes said the trial had been a resounding success – especially because the pilot period included both Christmas and Easter, which are two of the region’s busiest peaks in terms of visitation and road use.

WIRES volunteer Janelle Renes said the small section of virtual fencing had made a huge difference to the number of killed and injured wildlife.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” she said. “It’s a lot less traumatic for the rescuers, carers and council staff and saves the insurance companies a lot of money from reduced claims. We’d like to see them everywhere.”

The cost to council for the unpleasant task of collecting the animals that were being hit on an almost daily basis along Cullendulla Drive have also reduced. Due to the success of the fence, a second section will be installed along Dunn’s Creek Road, another South Coast roadkill hotspot.

Council staff and WIRES volunteers inspect one of the virtual fence posts on Dunn’s Creek Road

“We are thrilled by the success of the fence at Long Beach and predict that the second one will have a similar positive impact,” says Gary Howling, CEO of Great Eastern Ranges.

“Vehicle strike takes an extremely high toll on our native wildlife, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 10 million animals every year as they traverse roads in search of food, shelter and mates. We are behind the rest of the world in terms of putting in place wildlife crossing structures and measures that reduce the impact of our roads on animals and improve road safety for drivers.”

“The virtual fences on the South Coast are doing just that,” says Gary.

“Australia is sadly a world leader in extinction and biodiversity loss, so we need to pull every lever at our disposal to turn this crisis around. We hope innovative solutions like this virtual fencing can complement longer-term efforts to reconnect fragmented habitat and buy some time for our threatened wildlife,” says Darren Grover, Head of Regenerative Country, WWF-Australia.

The virtual fence on Dunn’s Creek Road will be installed by council workers later this year. The success of the fences at both spots will continue to be monitored by comparing the roadkill data collected by council and WIRES prior to installation with that gathered after.

One of Wildlife Safety Solutions virtual fence posts installed along another road.

Your donation will help us connect people to connect nature.