Wildlife signs set after collisions in 85 mph zone

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by MORGAN CHESKY / KVUE News and Photojournalist JUSTIN TERRY

kvue.com

Posted on October 30, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 30 at 10:41 PM

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- A Texas toll road with the nation's highest speed limit will get signs warning drivers about wildlife after at least three incidents of vehicles colliding with animals in the first few days of the new 85 mph zone.

The private company that runs the 41-mile portion of Texas Highway 130 said Tuesday temporary electronic message boards were being used until permanent signs can be installed.

SH 130 Concession Co. spokesman Chris Lippincott says the company decided to put up the signs based on early driving experiences on the north-south freeway designed as a bypass around Austin. The 85 mph portion opened last week.

Authorities say there have been at least three collisions, including two with wild hogs. No one in the vehicles was hurt.

At his body shop in Lockhart, Tommy Barron is used to seeing animal collisions, just not like this.

"I think this gentleman hit 4 or 5 hogs at one time," explained Barron as he pointed to a Chrysler 300 bearing a crushed front grill, dented door, and cracked wheel.

The almost $10,000 worth of damage came in a split second. The sedan, far from the only casualty.

"They say, 'Maybe if I wasn't going so fast I would have been able to see that deer or that hog' you know?"

Urban wildlife biologist Jacob Hetzel says keeping hogs off the roads can turn expensive quickly, but one thing that might help, is time.

"Once the highway starts getting heavier usage from now on the people and the pigs will start taking notice of each other," said Hetzel, who explains hogs will learn the dangers of using the highway at night, just as drivers do.

In addition to those signs, wildlife agencies are trapping feral hogs. Officials say so far the numbers aren't going down, but they do hope to keep them in check.

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