Moose detection system out of order

Part of a high-tech moose sensor system designed to warn drivers that animals are near or on the highway has been out of order for weeks.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government spent $1.5 million installing two sets of columns with infra-red sensors on the Trans-Canada Highway in 2011; one outside St. John's and the other near Grand Falls-Windsor.

The sensors are supposed to trigger warning lights if they detect moose, but the system near St. John's is not working.

"Actually, now it's the joke of the town," said Eugene Nippard of the Save Our People Action Committee, a group that has been lobbying the province to take action to reduce the number of moose-vehicle collisions on the province's highways.

Nippard, who lives in Grand Falls-Windsor, said the sensors are a failure.

"It's a false sense of security and it's sad to have to say that."

The island of Newfoundland has the highest concentration of moose in the world, and collisions often leave people dead, or with life-altering injuries.

Nippard said his group wants a simpler but more expensive solution: fences, similar to the hundreds of kilometres of wildlife fences installed along the highway in New Brunswick.

The province installed fences along a small stretch of highway in western Newfoundland as part of its pilot project.

Irving Filatre of the west coast community of Barachois Brook said he thinks the fence works.

"Driving back and forth to Corner Brook, I've seen quite a few on the inside of the fence, running along the fence," said Filatre. "Moose, winter time, you could sure see the tracks there. You know they're trying to get across."

Provincial officials said they are waiting for parts and a software upgrade to bring the problem sensors back online.

They're reserving judgement on the effectiveness of the sensors until the end of the pilot project later this year.

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