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Analysis and effectiveness of deer whistles for motor vehicles: Frequencies, levels, and animal threshold responses

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Whitetail deer (Odocileus virginianus) are common across much of the United States. In areas where deer populations are prevalent, there is a propensity for interactions with automobiles. Various methods have been suggested for reducing the number of automobile-deer collisions, including acoustic devices such as deer whistles. Six different whistles were tested in the laboratory and on motor vehicles. Frequencies and intensities generated by the devices when mounted on vehicles at speeds from 30 -45 mile per hour were determined. The primary frequency of operation of the closed end whistles on vehicles was determined to be approximately 3.3 kHz with little variation with changes in air pressure. Open-end whistles had a primary frequency of about 12 kHz, with significant variation with changes in air pressure. The best frequency range of hearing for whitetail deer appears to be between 2 and 6 kHz. The effectiveness of these devices was concluded based on the comparison of the acoustical attributes of the devices to deer hearing thresholds and acoustic behavior.
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Analysis and effectiveness of deer whistles for
motor vehicles: frequencies, levels, and animal
threshold responses
Peter M. Scheifele
Department of Animal Science, University of Connecticut, 3636 Horsebarn Road Ext., Storrs, Connecticut 06269-4040
scheifel@uconn.edu
David G. Browning
Physics Department, University of Rhode Island. Kingston, Rhode Island 02881
Lesa M. Collins-Scheifele
The Lost Ark, Inc. 129 Hunters Road, Norwich, Connecticut 06360
Abstract: Whitetail deer (Odocileus virginianus) are common across much
of the United States. In areas where deer populations are prevalent, there is a
propensity for interactions with automobiles. Various methods have been
suggested for reducing the number of automobile-deer collisions, including
acoustic devices such as deer whistles. Six different whistles were tested in
the laboratory and on motor vehicles. Frequencies and intensities generated
by the devices when mounted on vehicles at speeds from 30 - 45 mile per hour
were determined. The primary frequency of operation of the closed end
whistles on vehicles was determined to be approximately 3.3 kHz with little
variation with changes in air pressure. Open-end whistles had a primary
frequency of about 12 kHz, with significant variation with changes in air
pressure. The best frequency range of hearing for whitetail deer appears to be
between 2 and 6 kHz. The effectiveness of these devices was concluded
based on the comparison of the acoustical attributes of the devices to deer
hearing thresholds and acoustic behavior.
© Acoustical Society of America 2003
PACS numbers: 43.80.Lb, 43.80.Jz
Date Received:
November 19, 2003 Date Accepted: March 20, 2003
1. Introduction
Of the many methods that have been suggested to reduce the number of automobile-deer
collisions, including visual deterrents (reflectors)(Ford and Villa, 1993), barriers (Feldhammer
et al., 1986), and acoustic means such as deer whistles (Risenhoover et al., 1997; Romin and
Bissonette, 1996) the latter are currently being promoted in many states as the deterrent of
choice. Manufacturers advocate these devices on the premises that they are humane,
inexpensive, easy to use, and scientifically sound (Bomford and O’Brien, 1990). To date,
there have been relatively few technical studies of these devices. Three particular studies
concluded that of the acoustical devices tested, not all were in the ultrasonic range as stipulated
by the manufacturer (Schwalbach, 1989; Lawhern, 1990, and Romin and Bissonette, 1992).
This study was designed to determine: 1) actual frequencies generated by the devices; 2) if
those frequencies are generated with the device mounted on a vehicle at speeds between 48.2 -
72.4 kilometers per hour (30 - 45 mile per hour); 3) at what relative intensity they are
produced, and 4) to compare those frequencies with the hearing abilities of deer. Animal
acoustic behavior was also considered.
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The deer whistle may be categorized as a communication device. The purpose of
these devices is to act as an alarm signal, which fall into three categories (Bradbury and
Vehrencamp, 1998): flee alarms, assembly alarms, and alert alarms. Alert alarms do not cause
the receivers to flee or to gather but to remain stationary and become observant. If the signal is
linear, that is, combines readily with others, it will combine additively without distortion from
the sound produced by the automobile. This would be the intent of the deer whistle. All of the
alarm devices tested had the same statement regarding the anticipated response of deer to their
sonic components and, in general, are viewed as acoustic “attention-getters”, alleged to elicit a
response, not of flight but of attentiveness. This would allegedly preclude the animal from
bolting in front of the vehicle. In a few cases, the manufacturer’s statement indicated that the
device may “startle” the animal; however, most indicated that the animal was likely to
acknowledge the vehicle (the sound of the whistle) by remaining still while “looking up and
turning its ears.”
2. Methods
In this study six alarm devices were tested. All manufacturers generally stated that these
alerting devices were “ultrasonic” (>20 kHz). In two cases out of six, the frequency range of
16 - 20 kHz was given. The remaining four devices did not specify any particular frequency or
frequency range, but described the emission as a high frequency. Although no intensities were
reported, the devices were designed to be heard from as far away as 2 km to as close as 100 m.
“Best distances” were based upon weather conditions and cleanliness of the devices, according
to the information on the packages. Finally, to achieve the stated frequency and warning
distance (as a function of frequency and intensity) the vehicle was required to be moving at a
minimum speed of 30 miles per hour. Six different deer whistles were tested in the lab. Tests
consisted of forcing air directly into the mouth of each whistle until a strong sound was
emitted. Recordings were made on a Sony TCD-8 digital audio tape recorder (calibrated to a
1000 Hz tone) with a dynamic microphone. For road tests, the two “loudest” whistle pairs
were mounted on two separate cars on the front bumper per manufacturer’s directions.
Recordings were made from a single point along a closed road at the university campus. After
recording ambient noise conditions (no vehicles present), the drivers made ten duplicate runs
past the microphone at speeds of 30 mph, 35 mph, 40 mph, and 55 mph. The recordings were
analyzed as power spectra using a dynamic signal analyzer and by personal computer (PC)
using Spectra Plus software. SpectraPLUS is one 32-bit Windows application that allows you
to perform complex audio signal analysis with a Windows compatible sound card, available
from Sound Technology, Inc. The relative intensities were only valid when compared to one
another and compared to ambient conditions. The acoustical signal elements of concern
included: predominant frequency, intensity, and variation of the signal at speed. Once the
predominant frequencies (those clearly exhibiting the highest intensities) had been identified,
the recordings were evaluated at those frequencies in a 1/3-octave band for comparison to
hearing threshold information as given by evoked potentials (Risenhoover et al., 1997). This
analysis was duplicated using Spectra Plus software. Plots were made for each of the devices
tested and the predominant frequency and relative intensity information were tabulated.
3. Results
In all cases, tests determined the primary frequency of operation of the closed-end whistles to
be approximately 3.3 kHz with significantly higher harmonics. The open-end whistles had a
primary frequency of about 12 kHz, but this was found to vary significantly depending on how
hard the whistle was blown. In the laboratory tests air pressure was applied directly to the
whistle and recorded in a quiet room. Fig. 1 a shows sample frequency spectra for a typical
pair of whistles as tested in the lab using forced air whereas Fig. 2 shows the results of a
single
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road test power spectrum. Analysis of the spectrum level referenced to 20 uPa at the dominant
frequencies of the whistles is shown in Table 1.
Fig. 1. Frequency spectra for closed-end and open-end deer whistles, respectively, in lab tests
Fig. 2. Power spectrum for vehicle-mounted deer whistle (predominant frequency is 3.3 kHz at
4 dB re 20 uPa)
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Table 1. Deer whistle road tests for predominant operating frequencies
Whistle Ambient noise Whistle level Warring
frequency
(dB re 20 uPa) (dB re 20 uPa) road noise
3.26 69.20 70.40 64.00
Mean
3.30 69.00 70.00 64.00
Median
3.30 69.00 70.00 64.00
Mode
0.13 0.63 0.70
None Std. Dev.
12.01 35.70 60.90 None Mean
12.00 36.00 60.00 None Median
12.00 36.00 60.00 None Mode
1.2345944 0.674948558 1.595131482 None Std. Dev.
4. Conclusions
Very little is known about the dynamic range or hearing thresholds of whitetail deer. Using
the information available in the literature (Risenhoover et al., 1997) hearing threshold aliases,
based on auditory-evoked potentials of five deer, were used as a base from which to compare
the relative intensity levels of the road test recordings Fig. 3 shows a hearing threshold curve
based on the findings of Risenhoover et al. (1997). These reported deer threshold levels
showed the best sensitivity of hearing for the deer to be between 2 kHz and 6 kHz. The “best
sensitivity of hearing” is defined by the lowest threshold area or greatest sensitivity on the
curve. They also compared well with recordings of typical deer vocalizations, which range
from 1 kHz to 9 kHz (Risenhoover et al., 1997). Specifically, evoked potentials were indicated
at intensities of up to 95 dB re 20 uPa at 12 kHz. This was based on tests at frequencies of:
500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz, 4000 Hz, 6000 Hz, 8000 Hz and 12,000 Hz. Evoked potentials
were indicated at an intensity of 85 dB re 20 uPa at 16,000 Hz (Risenhoover et al., 1997).
Animals should easily hear the sound of the oncoming whistle provided the signal is not overly
attenuated, that is, presuming low transmission loss and ambient noise levels. The
effectiveness of the devices tested was judged by comparing the predominant frequencies and
intensities with the deer’s best sensitivity of hearing to see if they fell at or above the threshold.
Atmospheric transmission loss was considered using transmission loss from Table 2 as a
guide. Although sound transmission in the atmosphere can vary significantly, even over short
distances, considering the two principal components of spreading and absorption one may
make meaningful estimates. Spreading loss will be 3 dB per doubled distance from the source
of a transmission duct is present, to 6 dB per distance doubled for spherical spreading at short
ranges (Cowan, 1994).
Fig.3. Hearing threshold curve of whitetail deer (From Risenhoover et al. 1997)
showing the “best sensitivity of hearing” range from 2 to 6 kHz.
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Attenuation of sound in air depends on the second power of the frequency and
becomes very large at high frequencies. In practical terms, one or the other of these conditions
dominates. If spreading loss is the dominant factor, longer ranges are possible. When
absorption becomes dominant, the range becomes very limited. Table 2 shows the variation of
transmission loss and range in the typical frequencies of deer whistles and was used in
calculating the effectiveness of the deer whistle’s signal. Both spherical and cylindrical
spreading regimes are taken into consideration over the propagation distance. Four vehicle
speeds were run for each with estimated road noise levels taken from Warring (1972) using the
truck curve as the source to make the noise level equitable with U.S. highway traffic.
Table 2. Sound transmission loss in air
Loss due to Loss due to Loss Loss
Distance Cylindrical Sp. Spherical Sp. a @ 3.3 kHz. a @ 10kHz
2 (meters) 3 (dB) 6 (dB) .01 (dB) .1 (dB)
512 27 54 5.11 51.1
1024 30 60 10.23 102.3
2048 33 66 20.47 204.7
cylindrical spreading = 3 dB/distance doubled
spherical spreading = 6 dB/distance doubled
absorption α = 0.01 dB/meter @ 3,300 Hz. and 0.1 dB/meter @ 10,000 Hz.
[reference distance = 1 meter]
In comparison with the stated frequency ranges claimed by these devices the
predominant frequency of all six tested was 3.3 KHz for closed-end whistles and 12 kHz for
open-end whistles as opposed to ultrasonic or near-ultrasonic frequencies of 16 - 20 kHz as
stated. The harmonics are likely not to be heard unless it was broadcast at very high intensities
in accordance with Dirichlet’s rule, which states that for periodic signals with few major
discontinuities in their waveforms, the energy in higher harmonics of the corresponding
frequency spectrum will tend to deteriorate exponentially with the frequency of each harmonic
(Bradbury and Vehrencamp, 1998). One of the predominant frequencies of the whistles, 12
kHz is clearly outside the best frequency of hearing of the deer. The average sound pressure
level at 3.3 kHz was determined to be around 70 dB re 20 uPa when the device was bumper-
mounted at 40 mph and was totally lost to the road noise produced by the car since it falls
within the range of car noise (Warring, 1972). At this frequency, deer and humans should hear
the whistle very clearly. In all tests of the whistles mounted on automobiles, the sound
pressure levels of the devices were inaudible to the testers. Since these devices are
specifically meant to “alert” deer and not “startle” them into flight the signal produced by the
devices must be of a sufficient level for the animal to hear it while the vehicle is at a
reasonable distance but not at a level that will cause a flight reaction. Consider a vehicle
traveling, minimally. At 40 mph, it will cover 2,296 feet in the first minute leaving little time
for the animal to move. Additionally, the hearing threshold must be considered along with
attenuation to determine the signal strength required to make the device viable as a warning.
Results indicate that audio frequencies could reach significant warning distances if a
transmission loss of 100 dB were assumed but ultrasonic signals would be restricted to lengths
of 100 m or less. If a realistic maximum total transmission loss of 100 dB is assumed, a
whistle
operating at 3.3 KHz would suffer significantly less than 100 dB loss at the maximum
range shown in Table 1, (2048m or 6714 feet) regardless of which spreading loss applies (a
loss of 33 for cylindrical + 20.47 absorption = 53.47dB, or a loss of 66 for spherical + 20.47
for absorption = 86.47dB). At 12 kHz, a range of
only one-fourth that of 3.3kHz was be
obtained (~512m or 1,679 feet). For example, if the hearing threshold of the deer was
0 dB at
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3.3 kHz and the transmission loss was 53.47 dB then the device should be very easily heard
and would broadcast out to 2048 meters. At 12 kHz the loss due to attenuation would be
minimally 204 dB above the animal’s hearing threshold of 85 dB by auditory evoked potential
(Risenhoover, 1997). This would require signal strength of greater than 289 dB just for the
animal to hear the sound. Taking into effect the noise made by the vehicle at 3 kHz (Warring,
1972), it would be expected that the source would require a level of 76 dB re 20 uPa or better
to be heard at highway speed (>40 mph). This can only be achieved at the lower frequency.
Another factor affecting the ability of animals to detect and use acoustic signals is the
wavelength. Deer should favor narrow band, low-frequency signals over ultrasonic signals.
Signals must have wavelengths of 2 - 4 times the inter-ear size of the animal to allow for
coupling in air, since body size limits the auditory ability to determine arrival time differences,
differences in loudness, and directionality. Thus, the greater the wavelength, the lower the
intensity necessary to reach threshold and the more optimal the signal would be. In this case, a
signal of 3.3 kHz will yield a wavelength of only 0.1 meters. In addition, vehicle noise will
tend to change the spectral composition of the whistle signal by the addition of other frequency
components and increased energy. Only the closest sources of noise are useable in terrestrial
animal communication. When considering the relationship of noise to acoustic behavior, flight
response of the animal must also be considered. Each animal will respond within some “flight
distance” when it perceives a change in the environment (Hediger, 1964). The flight distance
is a specific amount of space surrounding an animal in which the animal feels at rest. When a
perceived source of danger breaches the border of the flight distance, the animal elicits some
behavioral response (Hediger, 1964). Behavioral responses are developed in association with
signaling codes within species. Animals acquire their signaling codes during their early
development. Most developing traits are determined through a mix of environmental and
genetically inheritable influences (Bradbury and Vehrencamp, 1998). “Habituation” is a part
of this developmental process. To this end, the effectiveness of the deer whistle device may
also be compromised in a behavioral sense.
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Animal-Vehicle Collisions (AVC) affect human safety, property and wildlife. Furthermore, the number of collisions with large animals worldwide and especially in the Saudi Arabia Kingdom has increased substantially over the last decades. This study provides a survey of the existing systems that mitigates the AVC. Moreover this study presents the high-level design of a deployable and intelligent Camel-Vehicle Accident Avoidance System (CVAAS) using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. The use of the GPS technology in this kind of application is a novel idea. To evaluate the CVAAS system a simulator has been implemented.
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Today, environmental protection is among the central matters for natural conservation, public health and sustainable business. With advanced technologies and changing lifestyles, the consumption of resources and release of wastes and pollutants are increasing fast. This requires policy makers to design environmental policies that properly guide the development of new products and business operations. The goal of environmental policy is to limit, slow-down, reduce or eliminate environmental damages caused by industrial and human activities. Environmental issues generally addressed by environmental policy include (but are not limited to) air and water pollution, waste management, ecosystem management, biodiversity protection, and the protection of natural resources, wildlife and endangered species. This book gathers the latest research from around the globe in this field.
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We distributed questionnaires to 50 state natural resource agencies in October 1992 to request estimates of deer killed annually on highways, the source of the estimates, and information about methods used to reduce vehicle collisions with deer; 43 agencies responded. Statistics on deer killed by vehicles were highly variable among agencies and were inconsistent among agencies. Despite a limited quantitative basis, the national deer road-kill for 1991 conservatively totaled at least 500,000 deer. Deer road- kills had increased during 1982-1991 in 26 of 29 states that had suitable trend data. Nearly all states had used some type of signs, modified speed limits, fencing, over- and underpasses, reflective apparatus, habitat alteration, or public awareness programs, but few agencies had evaluated performance of those techniques. Approaches that alter deer behavior and movement patterns appear to be the most fruitful for future application anti evaluation.
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Locations of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) along a 41.4-km section of Interstate 84 (I-84) right-of-way in Pike County, Pennsylvania, were determined by radio telemetry and spotlight surveys. Bucks crossed roads more often (P 0.05) between road-kills and highway direction, habitat, topography, or fence placement. However, deer were killed more often ≤0.48 km of an interchange. Management efforts to reduce the incidence of road-killed deer should address increasing the effectiveness of deer fence and decreasing the incentive for deer to enter the right-of-way.
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