Food Freedom

Harvesting Roadkill Now Legal in at Least Half of U.S. States

Oregon is the latest. Let's welcome this tasty trend.


Nyker1 / Dreamstime

If ever your stomach has growled as you've driven past a dead deer or squirrel on a roadside, I have good news for you. More and more states are changing their laws to allow people to make roadkill dinner.

Why allow people to harvest roadkill? There are many benefits.

"Millions of animals are killed on America's roads every week," I wrote last year. "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."

Others agree.

"These laws do more than permit the use of meat; they aim to solve problems of both waste and hunger," wrote Suzanne Zupello in a recent Eater piece.

"This rabbit was wild, grass-fed, and presumably antibiotic- and artificial hormone-free," wrote Catherine Price, in a 2011 piece for Slate detailing her roadkill adventure in a state, California, where such harvesting is illegal. "Except for the car that had hit it, no food miles had been accrued delivering it to us. So why not bring it home for dinner?"

The fact animals that die in vehicular accidents lived freely until their demise can also make them attractive to those who eschew meat because they don't like the thought of eating animals that are raised in confinement. In fact, even the animal-rights group PETA urges people who want to eat meat to choose roadkill.

Laws allowing people to harvest roadkill are no doubt on the uptick. Oregon lawmakers voted unanimously last month in favor of a roadkill law, but the state gave regulators until 2019 to come up with specifics. (Until the rules take effect, harvesting roadkill in Oregon is still illegal.)

Several states, including Montana, Wisconsin, and Michigan, have relaxed their roadkill laws in recent years, with good results.

A new Washington State law, which debuted in July 2016, appears to be a great success. Like Montana and some other states, Washington requires anyone wishing to harvest roadkill to obtain a permit. The state also requires harvesters to document the date and location of their harvest. The state plans to use data from those records—more than 1,600 in the law's first year—to help "target trouble spots and improve highway safety."

Many sources put the number of states where it's legal to harvest roadkill at 20 or more. According to a detailed and well-researched (though not exhaustive) blog post from Stone Axe Herbals, harvesting roadkill was legal (as of June 2016) to some degree in at least 24 states. With the addition of Washington State and Oregon (pending, in the case of the latter, creation of the aforementioned state rules) since that blog post, it's now legal in at least half of U.S. states to harvest roadkill.

That's great news, but it also means mamy states' roadkill laws are still mired in the horse-and-buggy days, including those in California, Alaska, Texas, and Nevada. In the case of Nevada, as I note in my recent book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, the state "has threatened to lob poaching charges at anyone foraging for roadkill."

While roadkill isn't legal in every state, neither is the steady spread of laws allowing it to be harvested likely to be the precursor of the next culinary trend. For example, roadkill won't be showing up on restaurant menus anytime soon. It's still illegal to sell wild-harvested game meats, not to mention ones that were harvested after being run over by a bus.

What's more, some federal laws still get in the way of harvesting roadkill, even in states where it's otherwise legal. For example, while Washington State allows those who obtain a free permit to harvest roadkill under the new law, a federal ban—which trumps state law—prohibits handling living or dead Columbian white tails, an endangered native species of deer.

When it comes to roadkill, the tide has clearly turned. In a column last year, I noted "laws…that restrict access to roadkill are increasingly viewed as antiquated and wrongheaded." I urged more states to encourage the expedient harvesting of roadkill. Many have, and the results speak for themselves.

An excellent recent Seattle Times look at the first year of the state's roadkill law by reporter Evan Bush notes there may be more than 17,000 vehicle-animal accidents each year in Washington State. With 1,600 or so roadkill-harvesting permits issued in the state last year, the law is barely putting a proverbial dent in the problem. But the law is a great start, and one I hope continues to spread to other states.

NEXT: America's Cities Double Down on Trolley Follies

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  1. = LeRoy Troy, “5 pounds of possum in my headlights tonight”

    Happy hunting!!!!

    1. Thanks for the link.

    2. Perfect

      1. If you like LeRoy Troy, his “Ghost Chickens in the Sky” is even better yet!

        1. Lol:)

        2. Can’t listen to either of them for more than about 10 seconds. Ouch.

          1. I listened twice so that’s ok.

    3. Thanks man, that’s great.

  2. I’m sure there are safety issues involved – stopping to pick up a dead deer is far more dangerous than a dead deer laying in the middle of the road and deer killed by a truck bumper are more likely to be diseased than deer killed by a bullet through the lungs, these things are known by city folk.

    1. A deer killed by a car is no more likely than one shot with a bullet to have a disease. LOL. The difference will be how much more blood shot meat that should not be eaten will be on the road kill. In other words their will be less usable meat. I live in Wisconsin and hunt, and am from a rural area. So much for “city folks” knowledge.

      1. Explain about blood shot meat. Doesn’t that just mean the animal’s been boozing?

        Seriously, how does internal bleeding ruin the meat?

        1. The muscle is severely damaged. I guess you could eat it, but it would not be very good in either texture or taste.

          “The bloodshot meat has been destroyed by the pressure , bursting capillaries, etc. It would not be a big problem if quickly used, but this meat will not store well.”

          ” the meat that gets pulverized.”

      2. And it is just stupid to need a law to give people permission to eat dead critters that they happen to find.

  3. We shouldn’t need to have rules “giving people permission” to eat roadkill. Just get rid of the rules that say they can’t. I wonder how many small animals killed by cars (rabbits, opossums, etc.) in events that are not reportable accidents do get eaten anyway.

    1. allow is the favorite word of every statist ever, except maybe prohibit.

    2. We’re all West Virginians now.

    3. I sort of understand the concerns some might have about this law. People could take to hunting with their vehicles and when caught, could just say they are harvesting road kill already there. Wardens hate nothing more than people hunting with or out of their vehicles. Obviously, if someone has a banged up car, it would be evident they didn’t hit the animal on purpose, but what about someone with a reinforced bumper? I am not saying I am opposed to this. Harvesting road kill should be allowed. But I can see why wardens and such would be concerned.

      1. I live in Wisconsin and no one in their right mind is hunting deer with their vehicles. The amount of damage from hitting a deer is to extensive and costly and the inconvenience of having it fixed is very inconvenient. I really don’t know where people get these weired ideas.

        1. Right. Why didn’t I think of that.
          Let’s see, warm clothing, weapon, ammunition, lots of practice time using up ammo and buying more, paying for hunting license, travel expenses for scouting a good place to hunt, cost of hunting trip; yep, can’t possibly be as expensive as a bent fender.
          Let’s see, getting up before dawn to drive hours to a cold wet place to try to outwit a deer; yep, no where near as inconvenient as sitting in a warm car shop sipping coffee.

          (Yes, I know. You hunt on the farm that has been in the family since Dan’l Boone, and use a home made bow and arrow to poach in the summer. Still applies to a bunch of hunters.)

        2. They make big ass bumpers for that….

  4. From the article…

    “That’s great news, but it also means *** mamy *** states’ roadkill laws are still mired in the horse-and-buggy days…”

    *** mamy *** emphasis mine…

    I am sadly very familiar with the “Nanny State”, but what is a “mamy state”? One with huge mams? Huge mams, I can make peace with, but I just don’t know any more, about “mamy states”!!! Then again, I’m not so sure about a reptilian state either!

    Where is Mr. Lizard; maybe he’d know!!!

    1. How much road kill was there in horse-&-buggy days?

      Plus, how does this biz about road kill harvesting permits work? You have to get a permit before a deer totals your Toyota?

      1. I grew up in the horse-&-buggy days, so long ago, so far back in evolutionary time that the horses were still carnivorous! They’d veer off to the side, no matter HOW hard you’d yank on their reins, and they’d snatch up any woolly possum, woolly deer, woolly raccoon, or woolly ground sloth that would wander across the road… So yeah, there WAS a lot of road kill, but you’d have to wash off the horse slobber if you wanted to grab it and growl…

      2. Monday, November 25, 2013
        Montana wildlife officials said permits to salvage deer, elk, antelope or moose killed in vehicular collisions will be available online beginning Tuesday.
        The new law that allows for the salvage of road-killed wildlife for food became effective in October. The permit system, which is now approved and becomes operational tomorrow, allows individuals to pick up road-killed wildlife. The permit must be completed within 24 hours of salvage. Only deer, elk, antelope or moose killed in vehicular collisions can be salvaged.
        If a person is involved in a vehicle-animal collision, the Montana Highway Patrol and some other law enforcement officers responding to the collision will have the ability to process a permit on site. If not, one must apply for a permit online.

        1. Only deer, elk, antelope, or moose? Why would they not permit opossum or racoon, among small game, or bear, among bigger? What if you run into a stray sheep?

          In this township this summer, a steer took a vacation. It got the name Moodini.

          1. Possum, raccoon, rabbit… aren’t considered game here. I don’t think anything prevents you from killing and eating at your leisure.

            Not sure about the bears and upland birds.

  5. I need a permit? This means this is targeted toward people who scrounge for roadkill. As opposed to those who just happened to hit a deer and don’t want to waste the meat.


    1. My uncle hit a deer once, and there was no way he was going to waste that meat after it totaled the station wagon. Compensation.

      1. I think the deer’s spouse would have a different point of view of compensation in that instance.

    2. Is the permit like a tax stamp you can affix after you pick up the kill? If it’s an advance permit, you’re right, this is about roadside scavengers. You’d think they’d want to encourage that to clean up the roads, wouldn’t you? Still, ewww.

      Does anyone scavenge for skunk?

      1. need to discover some valuable pharmaceutical precursor in stank-glands….

        1. Skunk glands are used for a large number of different trapping lures.

      2. It is served with an IPA, to disguise the shitty taste of IPAs.

  6. It’s always deer season

  7. Seems like the law would be almost unenforceable anyway.

    1. That’s the best kind of law!

  8. I need to make friends with my local PD. They’ve taken to calling me for deer late in the spring after it gets way too hot. Only suitable for those who pay for butchering. I was on the sheriff’s list and got better calls but for some reason they turned me over to the town. Hint: Don’t accept one from a 55mph speed limit highway vs semi, you’ll be lucky to get half a deer.
    Unenforceable law except for those who pay for butchering, but you register the kill for the game population count.

  9. The problem with roadkill is it probably has not been properly bled. If you intend to use the meat straight away this won’t be a problem but be careful.

  10. Have I ever mentioned before just how wonderful it is around here when the Obamafags are all away?

    It’s just one silly little piece about roadkill, 26 comments, and no fairies. It’s a beautiful thing.

    1. But what about about Bambi!?!?


    2. [flutters in on fairy wings, showers Mikey with glitter]

    3. Come now, Dum-Dee… do not resist the salvation that the Obamacock can bring you… give in to its exotic African flavor… become… one of us…

      {takes hold of the Obamacock’s aiming handles, begins to steer it towards Dum-Dee’s mouth}


  11. OT:
    O-care casualty:
    “Anthem’s retreat leaves Californians with fewer choices, more worries”…..65027.html

    It looks like Anthem’s been getting the illegal payments and they’re concerned that Trump is gonna cut ’em off.
    I hope so. I’m tired of paying for a bunch of free-loaders.

    1. The corruption isn’t a flaw in the system, the corruption IS the system.

  12. Really: the people who do this would wait for permission?

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  14. Roadkill harvesting by humans allowed, vultures hardest hit.

  15. And so the “Department of Road and Game” goes from comedy bit to reality:

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