Animal Detection System in Blacksburg, VA detects animals with 95 percent reliability

Buried cable Animal Detection System can successfully detect deer, bears and even smaller animals such as fox and coyotes.

Date Posted

Evaluation of a Buried Cable Roadside Animal Detection System

Summary Information

The purpose of this study was to evaluate a buried cable intrusion detection system to determine its ability to detect animals at a roadside site. The evaluation was conducted on the Virginia Smart Road, a closed test track facility located in Blacksburg, Virginia that is owned by VDOT and operated by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). A future study in a real-world setting will evaluate the safety benefits achieved by the system through the reduction of vehicle-animal collisions.

The installed animal detection system (ADS) features a 300-m-long buried dual-cable sensor that detects the crossing of large and medium-sized animals and provides data on their location along the length of the cable. The system has a central processor unit for control and communication and generates an invisible electromagnetic detection field around buried cables. When the detection field is disturbed, an alarm is declared and the location of the intrusion is determined. In the future, the system may be integrated with the connected vehicle framework to provide advanced, in-vehicle warnings to motorists approaching locations where animals have been detected in or near the roadway.


The buried cable animal detection system was installed at the Virginia Smart Road location and monitored continually from May 2014 to February 2015. A reliability analysis was performed on the cable. Events where the animal(s) were crossing or were within the detection field were considered as one of three possible scenarios: valid detection, false negative, or false positive. Video recordings were used for verification each time alarms were declared.


  • The buried cable ADS, if properly installed and calibrated, is capable of detecting animals such as deer and bear, with over 95 percent reliability. Smaller animals such as coyote or fox can be reliably detected with further calibration and tuning of configuration parameters without compromising the overall cable performance.
  • The ADS detection response (signal magnitude) can differentiate between animals, humans, and vehicle intruders.
  • The ADS performs well under various traffic conditions.
  • The ADS detection threshold is not affected by snowfall.
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