Background

Livestock wandering on to roads in pastoral regions, which span over 890,000km2 of Western Australia, can be a serious road safety issue for drivers, especially at dusk and dawn.  Pastoral leases are leases over Crown land, which gives the lessee the right to graze authorised livestock on the natural vegetation.

We have the following statewide data:

  • 600 animal strikes sourced from police reports (2013-2019)
  • 5391 animal strikes recorded where animal carcasses have been removed from the road, including 4619 cattle, with the remainder including sheep, goats, horses, and non-native animals such as cats

The ‘Animal Hazard Mitigation Program’ was established in 2013 to target sections of the road network with a high animal collision risk.  Since then, a number of strategies have been developed to improve safety and awareness, including:

  • Installing grids on road reserve fence lines
  • Moving watering points further back from the road-side
  • Installing one-way cattle gates
  • Improving warning signs and fencing standards
  • Assisting with funding for new and replacement fencing at “hot spot” areas

The decision to contribute to the installation of fencing is currently based on whether the area in question has a level of cattle strike which exceeds 0.25 strikes/km/3 year period.  This is a lag indicator and we’d like to explore more proactive solutions as opposed to waiting for hotspots to develop.  For example, if a pastoralist informed us that they were going to re-stock adjacent to a road, it wouldn’t be identified as a hotspot because there would be no animal strike history, so our decision making about whether to invest in animal strike reduction strategies is largely subjective.

Outcomes sought for the project

Our minimum criteria for success for this project would be to produce a tool (or tools) which would justify proactive investment to avoid cattle strikes, for example:

  • A predictive model – which would allow us to predict where hotspots might occur based on changes to conditions (for example changes in animal stocking in a location, traffic volume and type peak hours of travel etc.)
  • A decision tree – which would allow us to justify decisions to proactively spend money on treatments to avoid an area becoming a hotspot (e.g. if a pastoralist informs us that they are increasing animal stocks)
  • Any other approach – the above are examples only of possible approaches, we are happy to consider other approaches which meet the intent.

In addition to the above, we are happy to consider new solutions or treatments, which might alleviate the problem of cattle strikes, with the following considerations:

  • The solution would need to be acceptable to pastoralists
    • For example, some pastoralists don’t want to fence as they are then responsible for ongoing maintenance of the fence
  • The solution needs to be economically viable, recognising the relatively large geographical area and relatively low number of cattle strikes
    • For example, fencing all roads in pastoral areas is unlikely to be economically feasible
  • The solution would need to be in an area which Main Roads has some ownership/control/responsibility.
    • For example, vehicle based solutions – Main Roads has no control over what vehicles are used by the public. Given that the average age of the WA fleet is over 10 years old and that many vehicles remain in the fleet for 20 years, even if all new vehicles sold has animal detection capability (which they don’t) it would still take 20 years for this to be in the majority of the vehicle fleet.