Caltrans is right on target in trying an innovative approach to deter bears and other large animals from wandering onto the busy Cuesta Grade.
As Tribune writer David Sneed reported Monday, the agency is installing pads that will deliver a mild electric shock to animals attempting to enter the Highway 101 corridor. The pads are being strategically placed along a segment of highway where an unusually large number of collisions between cars and large animals have occurred.
Caltrans also is replacing barbed-wire fences with special wildlife fencing designed to keep out large animals. The goal is to channel large animals to locations where they can safely cross beneath the freeway.
It’s refreshing to see a state agency make a concerted effort to protect wildlife — quite a switch from the state Fish and Game Commission, which repeatedly tried to use the number of bears killed on the Cuesta Grade to justify opening San Luis Obispo County to bear hunting.
Fortunately, the outcry from government officials, environmental organizations and the general public was such that the commission shelved that plan.
Caltrans’ approach of trying to prevent collisions between animals and vehicles is far more humane than calling open season on bears. If successful, it also will improve safety for drivers along this stretch of highway.
One more plus: Because this is the first place in California where the electrified pads are being used, the project could become a model for other areas.
The work is due to be finished this summer; we look forward to the results.