The “You Kill It, You Grill It” headline dominated yesterday’s news across California and other internet media outlets. California State Senator Bob Archuleta (D-Montebello) has introduced legislation that will amend state law to allow drivers who fatally strike certain animals to retroactively apply for a wildlife salvage permit and consume the meat. Drivers of vehicles (and opportunistic non-drivers who come across roadkill) would be able to take advantage of the new law, which requires applying for a wildlife salvage permit, at no cost, within 24 hours of the collision. Existing law allows only state and local agencies to remove roadkill. The bill’s text notes that each year “it is estimated that over 20,000 deer alone are hit by motor vehicles on California’s roadways” and that “this translates into hundreds of thousands of pounds of healthy meat that could be utilized to feed those in need.”
The bill applies to certain species – deer, elk, antelope and wild pig – and does not cover any animal protected by the California Endangered Species Act. If the animal is injured but not killed by the collision, the bill allows the salvager to dispatch the animal “in a safe, legal, and humane manner”. If passed, the law would go into effect in 2021.
California is not a trailblazer in the area of roadkill legislation. Oregon and Washington both have laws that allow certain roadkill to be salvaged, as well as roughly 20 other states. Many states have tight restrictions on harvesting roadkill and limit the practice to licensed hunters. Oregon’s law, which allows salvaging of deer and elk, went into effect in January of this year. Free permits (with online applications) must be obtained within 24 hours of salvage. Oregon requires the antlers and head of any salvaged animal to be surrendered to an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office within five business days of taking the carcass so as not to incentive the practice of selling body parts (such as antlers) to collectors.
The state of Oregon, which offers a helpful link to the key regulations for salvaging roadkill, warns people who take advantage of the law that they “will consume the meat at their own risk”. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not regulate roadkill.
Perhaps surprisingly, it has been reported that animal rights activists consider roadkill to be one of the most ethical and environmentally friendly meats. Advocates recognize that these animals were not purposefully raised for food and the meat would otherwise go to waste. California appears to be a leader in “wildlife-vehicle conflict” (WVC) which is studied and cataloged by the University of California—Davis. For those who are curious, the UC—Davis publicly-available website shows the “WVC hotspots” along California’s roadways.