I just read that Montana has now legalized the consumption of roadkill.  Now, if a deer or elk is killed by an automobile, a person may legally take the carcass for food, provided the person obtains a free permit for it within 24 hours.

I was surprised that until now in Montana it had been illegal to eat an animal killed by a motor vehicle.  That seems a strange law to me.  But doing a little research on it, I found that such laws aren’t uncommon.  In Texas, Tennessee, California and Washington, for example, it is illegal to collect roadkill for any purpose.   Strange.

It seems that Virginia requires that in order to take roadkill a person first obtain a permit, which seems to be a de facto prohibition.  I can’t imagine someone killing an animal in a collision, then going to get a permit before coming back to get the animal.

Some states, like Florida, allow a person to do whatever they like with roadkill.  Many states have no laws on the subject.

Although roadkill doesn’t sound appetizing to me, it does seem a pity to allow a potential food source to go to waste.  In Alaska it’s illegal to take roadkill home, but it’s supposed to be reported so the state can collect it and provide it to charities with feeding programs.

Here’s an interesting interactive map that identifies each state’s law on the subject:

I did find one provision of the new Montana law to be odd.  The law prohibits eating certain fur-bearing roadkill, such as sheep and bears.  Why?  Because of a concern that people might intentionally ram them in order to get the carcass.

Who in their right mind would intentionally ram a bear?  I imagine that would be pretty hard on the vehicle.

Collisions with deer are common here, and it’s a major problem.  Nationwide there are about 1 million vehicle/deer collisions every year, resulting in about 2oo human deaths, about 10,000 injuries and $1 billion in vehicle damage.  Far more people die in collisions with deer than are killed by any predator animal.

My guess is that anyone foolish enough to ram a vehicle into a bear would soon discover that the stew doesn’t compensate for the cost of repairing the vehicle.


12 comments on “Roadkill

  1. shoreacres says:

    Your post reminds me of a news story that stayed on air here for months and months. North of my old neighborhood in Houston… well, you can read it for yourself. 😉

    In May 2011, HPD’s deferential response team raided the business after receiving numerous complaints from neighbors.

    Back then, they found weapons—including a stolen 12-gauge shot gun… Undercover officers said there was card and domino-playing taking place, but rather than being an innocent game among friends, it was high-stakes gambling.

    Maxwell was given dozens of citations last year, including one for selling raccoon meat to customers and allegedly telling them it was chicken. Maxwell said that was all a lie. And while no raccoon meat was found this time, he said police knew about it and were making a big deal out of nothing.

    “Yes, I got raccoons. Police bring me raccoons. And when they give me one, I clean one for them. I cook raccoons, I’m from Mississippi. I eat raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, quails, possums. I eat that, I was raised off of that. I ain’t never sold no coon!”

    Maxwell, who just got out of jail two months ago, feels the police are just picking on him. He says he and his friends are just trying to enjoy the time they have left.

    “They are old, retired men playing dominoes every day; this is the only place they got to go. They not gambling. You can go ask any one of them, they are just playing a three-man game of dominoes. Where else can old people go that are retired?”

    Granted, there’s no clear indication that roadkill’s involved in this guy’s story. But I surely wouldn’t bet against it.

    One other thing occurs to me. While you seem to be assuming that the person who killed the animal would be the one toting it home, it may be that some prohibitions are meant (rightly or wrongly) to prevent people who just happen along from picking up the stray deer or coon. I suppose health concerns are the issue, there.

    Some people know how to deal with game, and others don’t have a clue. Honestly, I know people who might be willing to roast a buzzard.


    • Bill says:

      I’ve never heard of anyone eating raccoon, and I’ve heard of eating lots of things. A farmer south of us told me he takes the groundhogs he catches to some folks locally who eat them. Squirrel, rabbit and quail, sure. I ate them growing up. But possums and groundhogs? No thanks. I’ve never been that hungry.

      Seems I did read that some of the prohibitions on taking road kill were based on health concerns. But to my way of thinking if people want to eat an animal killed by a car, then they should be free to do it. Granted some good judgment should be applied, but I reckon most folks (especially in rural areas) will know when it’s safe to eat an animal and when it isn’t. I can’t imagine that anyone with the skill to butcher an animal wouldn’t have good enough sense to know when it’s spoiled. Now if the person is planning to pass it off as chicken at the local underground casino on the other hand….


  2. El Guapo says:

    On the other hand, imagine the new industries for after-market upgrades to vehicles for “road hunters”…


  3. TexWisGirl says:

    ‘for any purpose’. that’s interesting. when my sis and i were teens, we picked up a mallard drake that had been killed by a car. she was practicing taxidermy at the time. he hung on my parents’ wall for many years thereafter.


    • Bill says:

      I reckon that makes you a confessed criminal. 🙂

      I’m one too. I have a fox pelt in my study that came from a road-killed red fox. I didn’t go get a permit before picking it up, so it seems I committed a crime by taking it. Such a beautiful creature, it seemed a shame to leave it to the buzzards.

      When I was kid my Daddy hit and killed a deer while coming home from work. He threw it in the back of the truck and we ate it. He didn’t want it to go to waste. But since he didn’t have a permit, he too committed a crime.


  4. jubilare says:

    “I imagine that would be pretty hard on the vehicle.” and the people inside. O_o

    It’s illegal here, but that doesn’t mean people don’t do it… after all, it is a sad waste.


    • Bill says:

      Yep, ramming into a bear would definitely be pretty risky for the people in the vehicle too.

      I can’t imagine laws against collecting roadkill are strictly enforced. No one wants an animal to be killed that way, but if it happens it does seem a shame to let it go to waste.


  5. Lynda says:

    My husband hit his first deer in the past year or so. I wanted to get it processed, but was told that it was illegal here in Alabama. Now I read on your link that we are an N/A state. I suppose it it just as well since he was so shook up about it I doubt he would have been able to eat even a bite. However, we did make sure to contact the sheriffs department so they could put it out of it’s misery. 😦

    If it happens again, I will not be so shy about taking it.


    • Bill says:

      I would definitely take it, rather than just leave it there. I heard someone from Maine talking about this and he gave his name to the sheriff’s department and they call him to come get road kill, which he uses to make dog food for his dogs.

      Deer are very dangerous. The last one I hit just jumped into the side of my car as I was driving by. It killed the deer and tore up my car. Sometimes they go through windshields. They tend to panic and jump in front of vehicles. I always slow down when I see them on the side of the road, especially if they’re on both sides of the road.


      • Lynda says:

        This was Bob’s first experience. He knows better now. Thankfully, the damage was to the grille, hood and bumper of his car, and of course his nerves! He was OK except for that. 😉


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