Food Policy

Eating Away at State Roadkill Bans

Some states bar people from harvesting dead animals. But Montana has gotten good results from lifting its ban.


Franky /

This Labor Day weekend, as millions of Americans mourn the end of summer, many of us (though not this guy) will fire up our grills to sear various hunks of animal flesh for one last seasonal family gathering. (The upside, besides the meat, is that with any luck we won't have to see most of these people again until Thanksgiving.)

Much of the meat we'll grill this weekend will be store-bought. Some of it will be purchased at the farm. Some will have been fished or hunted. And some—an almost imperceptible amount—will be harvested from the animal carcasses that dot America's roadways.

Yes, I'm talking about roadkill.

Food that's been harvested from animals that died on America's roadways is hardly a staple in most kitchens. But it's nevertheless become the subject of a growing number of battles over who has the right to take and eat it.

Just last week, an Associated Press article detailed how "thieves" in Alaska have been "stealing" roadkill meant for nonprofits that feed the homeless and less fortunate, among others. A day later, a New York Times piece on Alaskan roadkill featured this unexpected quote from a woman who harvests roadkill for such groups, Laurie Speakman: "I work my life around roadkill."

As the N.Y. Times piece details, state law declares that "animals struck and killed on Alaska's highways are state property and may be handled only by authorized groups[.]" Some groups use the meat to feed those in need. But the state also harvests the meat for anyone who "like[s] moose meat" and adds his or her name to a list.

But, as both the AP and the Times detail, Alaskans who like moose meat increasingly are ignoring the law and harvesting roadkill to feed themselves. What, if anything, is wrong with that?

"Some people out there say, 'Well, it's just roadkill,' and if they're hungry, they're entitled to it," advocate Don Dyer told the Times, "but the fact of the matter is that when somebody steals a whole moose, it impacts a lot of people."

That's one view. But it's one that ignores the fact that Alaska's roadkill restrictions also impact a lot of people.

As I detail in my book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, which is being published on September 15 (pre-order it here!), laws like those in Alaska that restrict access to roadkill are increasingly viewed as antiquated and wrongheaded. It's easy to see why.

Roadkill is a widespread problem. Millions of animals are killed on America's roads every week. Dead animals—particularly large ones like bear or moose—can also cause human deaths and property damage when drivers hit carcasses in the roadway. Many people don't have access to cheap, sustainable protein. Harvesting roadkill helps address each of these problems.

But some states, like Alaska, restrict or ban access to roadkill. Texas bans the harvesting of roadkill. Nevada considers harvesting roadkill to be animal poaching.

But pushback against such bans is growing. Montana lifted its ban on harvesting roadkill—which Montana Public Radio dubbed "vehicle tenderized meat"—in 2013. The Montana law requires residents to obtain a free roadkill permit. In the first two years under the law, the state issued nearly 2,000 permits.

"Residents must take the whole animal—both to remove it as a potential obstacle for other drivers and to keep other animals that might eat it (and themselves fall prey to traffic) out of the roadway," I write in Biting the Hands that Feed Us. "The law has been a tremendous success. In the first year after the ban, Montanans harvested more than 700 dead deer, 100 elk, 30 moose, and 5 antelope from state roadsides."

Other states have followed suit. Michigan relaxed its roadkill laws in 2014, and Wisconsin did the same in 2015. According to the Times, another seventeen states allow the harvesting of roadkill.

Are these laws taking roadkill out of the mouths of hungry people in Montana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and other states? Probably not. Neither the AP nor the Times identified anyone in Alaska who'd gone hungry because someone had harvested a moose illegally.

What's more, harvesting roadkill only constitutes theft if a state declares it owns all of the dead wildlife in that state, and decides who may or may not take and eat an already dead animal.

No person benefits if roadkill meat spoils, goes to waste, or is eaten by other animals (which, again, can themselves pose further hazards in roadways). As Montana's smart law demonstrates, more states should encourage the expedient harvesting of roadkill.

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113 responses to “Eating Away at State Roadkill Bans

  1. “Get the oven ready, Lurleen, I’m goin’ out huntin’!”

    1. “That deer in the headlights will soon be venison on my plate, wooo-eee!”

    2. Bow season.
      Rifle season.
      Muzzleloader season.
      Pickup truck season.

      1. Five pounds of possum, in my headlights tonight, by LeRoy Troy…

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      3. Pickup truck season isn’t a year round thing?

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  2. “Some people out there say, ‘Well, it’s just roadkill,’ and if they’re hungry, they’re entitled to it,” advocate Don Dyer told the Times, “but the fact of the matter is that when somebody steals a whole moose, it impacts a lot of people.”

    How so? And advocate of what? The restrictions, I assume. But what’s this implicitly negative impact?

    And worse, why does Reason suddenly feel the need with this article to throw a bone with tire marks on it to the yokeltarians? Is it because of all the Trump-bashing? Because that’s not enough.

    1. Roadkilled duck, you say? I must tell y’all a moral allegory I heard as a small child on my Daddy’s knees, who was a duck-hunter in the back-woods of Lerweeeesiana? He said there was a poor yung feller, Depression-era timeframe, his Dad said to him, “Here, Son, ya is gonna learn a lotta stuff about takin’ good care o’ that them thar animals, & who knows WHAT all else ya might learn about. So here is a pet duck fer ya.” ? The kid and the duck got along splendidly, they did everything and went everywhere together, but eventually the kid, getting older, got just a wee tad tired of the duck. So when the kid stumbled across an attractive young “lady of the evening”, and he was smitten, he hit on her, but had nothing to offer. Amused, the young lady offered here services in exchange for the duck. “She offered her honor, he honored her offer, and all night long, it was honor and offer”. The young lad finally got tired and begged to stop. She was enjoying it so much, she begged him to go on! “Well, whatcha gonna GIVE me fer it?”, he demands. “I’ll give you yer duck back”, she quacks. And it was off to one more round?

      1. On his way home, though, a mac track drove close by the young man and smashed the duck to smithereens & feathers. The young kid was heart-broken, so when the truck driver stopped to check up on things, he gave the young man two dollars (a small fortune in those days). When the young man got home and told his Dad the story, his Dad, ever concerned for the young man’s learnings in the Adventure called Life, asks, “Well, Son, whatcha learn here, then?” He said, “Dad, I learned this: A duck fer a fuck, a fuck fer a duck, and TWO BUCKS fer ONE FUCKED UP DUCK!”

    2. I have that t-shirt.

  3. Mad Max: ‘Roos You Can Use

    1. “When the roos are out of hope all they have left is hop.”

      1. ALTERNATE JOKE: Australia’s road-kill grill is called I(used to)HOP.

      2. They’re so darn ard to catch:

  4. This seems appropriate for H&R.

  5. “Hey Brandine, get the kids ready for dinner” – Cletus

  6. Progressivism is the road kill of politics and history.

    1. Yeah, but it doesn’t taste good.

  7. BANNED IN INDIA: Cowdozer, the movie

  8. Here in Maine it used to be the case that the state claimed ownership of all roadkill.

    Then someone said “Hey, if the state owns that moose that just wrecked my truck, then the state need to buy me a new ride!”

    They changed the law before the carcass was cold.

    1. I’m surprised they didn’t amend it to ‘we owns the carcs and fuck you we owe you nuttin.’

      1. yous nuttin’.

        Always important to have politicians and bureaucrats talk like early 20th century mobsters.

        1. I believe the correct spelling is “youse.”

      2. If they own the carcass they must spend resources takin it to a disposal facility. They save $ and local person gets meat for the freezer.

        Many years ago in Maryland I’m told the state used to pay for vehicle damage caused by wildlife. It makes sense in that the state “owns” the wilife.

  9. ‘Hey guys! Where you going? I swear I’m not crazy!’

    1. “I don’t have a bomb.”


        1. Tomorrow’s headline: Man Can’t Find Propane Gas for BBQ; Christians left him no choice but to take drastic measures.

          1. If he pulled that shit in Texas the headline would be: “Terrorist achieves his dream of being a famous conductor.”

  10. For deer (and I believe moose) in Maine, if you strike one a game warden or police officer must issue you a permit onsite so you can legally possess the remains/meat. If you decline they may call one of a few local poor people that aren’t against taking a roadkill animal and issue them the permit.
    Unlike Maryland, Maine LEOs will dispatch wounded animals with their firearms.

    1. That was exactly the routine 30 some years ago when I had an unfortunate encounter with a moose one evening just outside of Digusta. Unfortunate part was, the moose lived, and the warden never tracked her down, so GT (and his neighbors and students) got no meat.

      I’m sure down here in the Peepuls Repulik of Taxchusetts there’s probably a law that disallows this common sense solution, probably based on the assumption that the animal was not humanely killed or butchered and stored in a sanitary fashion.

      1. “Unfortunate part was, the moose lived”

        (revs up killdozer)

        “Officer, if you come back in half an hour I think you’ll find the moose is indeed dead.”

        1. Buick, actually

      2. Locally produced, sustainable, free range organic meat.
        If you didn’t grow up on a farm or don’t own ag/biotech stock a visit to a CAFO or hot dog factory will make you revisit eating meat.

  11. Wow, Sarah Palin’s 15 minutes must be up, the Alaskan road kill story would have been an ideal set-up for Palin jokes.

    1. Well, she got several good years over the 15 minute allotment. But I think it might be over.

  12. Obviously, the laws are meant to prevent drivers from running off the road to kill a chicken, deer, or moose.

    1. Wife: You’re driving crazy, Crufus? You’re gonna kill us!’
      Crufus: Shat yer trap, Mable. I don’t need no back seat driver yappin’. Gonna git us some fresh meat!
      Wife: But we just bought 10 ilbs of chicken! We have enough!

      Crufus (swerves and hits animal): I got i…what in the hell is that thing!?

      Okay. Enough of this. I have a funeral and wedding to get to today.

      1. Hopefully at separate venues?

        1. Many of my friends and family claim that it’s a distinction without a difference.

          1. Hah! They may have a point, at that.

  13. How long is roadkill “fresh?” I guess it depends on temperature, and you better know what you are doing when you butcher it. Around Penna. the deer carcasses usually have the head sawed off if it was a buck. I can imagine the head mounted over the fireplace with a plaque – “Taken down with a 2012 Honda Civic.”

    1. “I got this prize off Route 1. And, ah, that beaut was from Highway 404. Oh, that ‘what you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?’ looking face I got on the Interstate….”

  14. Many people don’t have access to cheap, sustainable protein.

    You know who else didn’t have access to cheap, sustainable protein?

    1. “Silence of the Lambs” dude?

    2. Jeffrey Dahmer?

    3. Not your mother?

    4. “You know who else didn’t have access to cheap, sustainable protein?”

      You mean during his years in poverty in Vienna while he was trying to earn a living with his art?

      That’s easy…Mozart.

    5. One eyed one horned flying purple people eaters?

  15. Growing up, I had a Kansas Highway Patrolman living next door to me. Some of the families on our street (including mine) would go and get a whitetail when he would call and say someone had hit one. I’ve had lots of roadkill deer – nothing wrong with it as long as it’s bled out, which our neighbor knew to do when he arrived on the scene.

    We weren’t by any stretch of the imagination ‘poor’.

    1. “We weren’t by any stretch of the imagination ‘poor’.”

      Not with *that* kind of initiative you weren’t – not in America!

    2. That’s nuthin’, Ah ken “Trump” that!

      “The Donald” (AKA, He Who Trumples on our Liberties) wasn’t poor, either, but, when ATTEMPTING to grow up, He and His Family dined regularly on road-kilt Messicans….

    3. Two of my nine siblings, Cleetus and Darlene, graduated 8th grade. Darlene now dances on weekends at the local two shop’s garage. She still has almost half of her teeth.

  16. OT from the NYT – 6 Things We Learned in the F.B.I. Clinton Email Investigation:

    The F.B.I. said that it had identified 13 mobile devices that Mrs. Clinton potentially used to send emails. Mrs. Clinton’s aides were in charge of buying replacement BlackBerry devices when she was in office. Ms. Abedin told the F.B.I. that “it was not uncommon for Clinton to use a new BlackBerry for a few days and then immediately switch it out for an older version with which she was more familiar.” Ms. Abedin and another aide told the F.B.I. that “the whereabouts of Clinton’s devices would frequently become unknown once she transitioned to a new device.” An aide to Bill Clinton, Justin Cooper, who helped set up the server, told the F.B.I. that he recalled “two instances where he destroyed Clinton’s old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.”

    Admitting to losing devices with classified information? Related: Cheryl Mills lost her Blackberry too:

    “Somewhere b/w my house and the plane to nyc yesterday my personal bb got misplaced; no on [sic] is answering it thought [sic] I have called,” Mills wrote from her personal email account

    1. According to the summary of the investigation, Mrs. Clinton brought her BlackBerry into a secure area on the seventh floor of the State Department, where such electronics are prohibited. The F.B.I. interviewed three former State Department diplomatic security agents who said that Mrs. Clinton kept her BlackBerry in her desk drawer in the secure area, a so-called Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF. But Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton, told the F.B.I. that Mrs. Clinton left the secure area to check her BlackBerry, often going to the State Department’s eighth-floor balcony to do so.

      Ah, security procedures.

      Unelated: children are very annoying, and I don’t know why people want them.

      1. three former State Department diplomatic security agents who said that Mrs. Clinton kept her BlackBerry in her desk drawer in the secure area, a so-called Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF. But Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton, told the F.B.I. that Mrs. Clinton left the secure area to check her BlackBerry, often going to the State Department’s eighth-floor balcony to do so

        If the NYT had an editor left, they’d strike the But for that sentance. Hamas statement is complementary, not contradictory to the DSS agents’ statements. Where was her blackberry when she wasn’t checking on the balcony? She was probably on that balcony because she couldn’t get a decent signal in the scif.

    2. NYT link, which I forgot to add because children are annoying. Blame tiny people.

  17. In the late ’90s Minnesoda was going to donate road kill to homeless shelves, but the homeless activists kicked up a stink. They claimed it was further humiliation for a group that had already been demeaned enough.

    1. Meanwhile, in Alaska, homeless activists* have to beat off non-homeless people with a stick in order to get moose for homeless people to eat.

      I guess the common element here is “whatever it is you normals are doing, you’re not being compassionate!”

      *I don’t think the activists are actually homeless – the people for whom the activists are self-appointed tribunes are homeless.

      1. (Have these activists never head the saying, “beggars can’t be choosers?”)

          1. (I’d like the see the expressions on the homeless people’s faces when the activists told them, “some insensitive assholes offered you free roadkill to eat but we told those jerks to take their food and shove it. Can you imagine how they tried to demean you?”

            1. Maryland had a “hunters and farmers feeding the homeless” program. IIRC you donated the entire animal to a participating butcher and paid the +/- $70 for processing.

              Also, Alaska has homeless? Do they migrate south between September and May?

      2. Shit, first you want them to eat roadkill, now you are advocating beating them off with a stick?

        Fuck, that is harsh. Couldn’t you beat them off with your hand at least? Why the stick?

        1. I keep thinking my tasteless can’t be topped, but I forget I’m at H&R.

          1. It’ll get you in trouble in the world too. My wife commented that the seat warmer in the VW worked better than the Chrysler, and without thinking, I replied that the Germans do know how to toast people. It took a couple of minutes to register and then she was appalled for the rest of the trip.

            1. Thing is, “beat off with a stick” has a perfectly valid non-sexual meaning worthy of being preserved.

  18. Ive hit two deer in two different truck driving home from work out our 2 lane country road. OHSP had me sign a slip saying it was worth 5$ and released to me from the state. Pretty easy,though,the cops won’t help you load it.

  19. So I used to hunt with an ex-classmate who worked sex offenders.

    During one of our hunting trips he was telling me that he had a client who was in a halfway house. One of the requirements for this guy was he had to do a self-assessment with the group. One part of that was to come clean about all the sex he has had.

    The guy kept balking at this requirement. Finally his time at the halfway house was coming to an end. Either he had to do this or go back to the joint.

    Finally the guy sat down and confessed to everything. The big revelation was that the guy could not drive past any road killed deer without stopping, pulling it into the woods and having his way with it.

    My friend said that his initial reaction was “Huh, that isn’t too bad. At least there isn’t a victim.”

      1. It’s a moot point since dead deer generally don’t fuck.

    1. So instead of dressing the roadkill deer he undressed it.

  20. More Australian roadkill. (skip to 45secs in)

  21. I should have given more thought to medical school
    Or corporate law or something equally cool.
    I’m up to my ears in lizards and gizzards and bones.
    And you know it’s really hard to impress the girls,
    When your job consists of scraping up squirrels.
    And you know they pay people to pretend they’re having sex with Sharon Stone.
    Now how do you get that job?
    And I don’t want to be any roadkill maintenance man.
    Just spending my days in some buzzard’s fantasyland.
    I’d rather do the evening news and make about a hundred grand.
    No, I don’t want to be any roadkill maintenance man.

    From the song by Jim Morris

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  24. On the way home from my first bachelor party a beautiful 6 point buck dashed in front of our car and was killed instantly.
    We examined him, determined his carcass was in pretty good shape, tossed him in the trunk and continued home. It was only a few hours before sunup so we spent that time dressing him out. This was not an easy task because we were all nearly blind drunk and the only sober one, the designated driver, went home to his wife.

    Afterwards I was exhausted so I fell in the bed still in my clothes and passed out about three hours before the wedding was to begin. Some time later my bride to be, in her wedding dress, was shaking me awake. She was horrified.

    “Oh my god! What happened?! What have you done?! What did y’all do?!”

    It was then that I realized I was reeking of alcohol, late for the wedding, and covered in blood.

    “It was just a hooker. Don’t worry, no one will ever find her.”

    1. You did your bachelor party the night before? Geez.

      I didn’t have one. All of my friends are dirtbags, and I probably would have died.

      1. I did mine months before. You don’t want to be trying to get stripper glitter off your skin the day of your wedding.

        1. Mine was two nights before. Was still hungover at the rehearsal dinner but was recovered in time for the wedding day.

    2. I love stories like this.

      My only “big game” road kill was a mule deer on I15 north of Beaver, UT nearly fifty years ago, late at night. I ended up dragging what was left of the carcass off the road and going to my motel and asking them as i was checking in to call someone for me to report it to in the morning.

      I was a 21-yr-old junior engineer working on a mineral survey in the local area. About as dumb as a box of rocks, I sometimes wonder how I survived those years.

  25. Hunting season via vehicle year-round coming soon to a state near.

  26. At least once a year, I see fresh roadkill deer with missing heads. It seems that if you’re going to go to the trouble to take a free decoration for your mancave, you might as well take the whole carcass and eat it.

    I dunno. I don’t pretend to understand what people do with deer. When I go hunting once or twice every couple years, I use it as an excuse to sit in the woods and not see anyone. It’s been ages since I’ve even bothered to take a shot when I’ve seen a deer.

    1. “…I use it as an excuse to sit in the woods and not see anyone. It’s been ages since I’ve even bothered to take a shot when I’ve seen a deer.”


      Pigs are a different story, but with deer I figure their life is short and difficult enough without my help. I will harvest one every few years, but mostly I let them go.

      1. I gave up what I came to call “armed hiking” for the reason that i found fewer and fewer reasons to do so (fewer and fewer sightings of takeable game).

        I figured if I was just going to take a stroll in the woods, I might as well do it without an eight pound rifle.

        1. And, I love venison and other game. If I can trade with my friends for some I do it.

          I’m just no longer willing to freeze my ass off in a tree stand before dawn waiting for it.

  27. And in other news, Percocet sucks. This is in no way worth the constipation.

    1. The only opiate I’ve ever had that worked for what it was prescribed for was Morphine.

      Not even dilaudid was worth a damn.

    2. This is in no way worth the constipation.

      Miralax OTC, PRN. Follow the dosage directions on the label.

  28. “Many people don’t have access to cheap, sustainable protein.”

    Name some. Cheap, sustainable protein is literally crawling around on the ground.

  29. Why do I even have to have a permit if it’s going to be a free one? Its like rules just for the sake of having rules. I hope those paperwork pushing assholes in Helena all smoke a turd in hell.

  30. Archaic laws designed to somehow reduce poaching, which is itself a rather outdated concept.

    Really, these are just attempts to further control everything in your life and force you to get government permission to exercise common sense.

  31. Well in Ohio they do allow you to take it if you have a “receipt” from a cop. Not too hard to get one, though; just call and ask for an officer to come out and give you a receipt. But here is a problem: If they own the animal, they should also then be responsible for all damage that that animal causes.

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