Picking up Roadkill: is it Legal?
Update: After spending the last several months making calls and emails to every single state fish and wildlife, I have compiled a list of the roadkill laws in the majority of the states. Some F+W's failed to get back to me so if your state is not on this list, that is why. To read this list click HERE.
Two weeks ago I received an email from another student (this is my final semester studying Agroanthropology and Draft Horse Management at Sterling College) saying that a deer was hit in front of her dorm, the authorities were already notified, and they were coming to dispose of it in the morning. Folks around here know that I always have an eye out for roadkill and I've gotten a few good tips here and there, but never a lead this amazing!
It was already 9:30 or 10 pm, but Zak and I ran over as quickly as we could. We found the deer just 20 or 30 minutes after it died. It was a huge doe, strong and healthy with no external damage from the collision. We admired her for a few minutes in awe, not quite believing that she wad dead and that we now had a whole deer in our possession. Being a very cold night, we decided to stash the deer close by, sliding her on the snow under the boughs of a small stand of conifers 20 ft from the road. We hid the deer to prevent it from being taken by anyone else and to get it away from the road ( I know, I know, most people do not have to worry about roadkill theft, but I live in a VERY rural area). We also did not want any carnivores going to eat the deer getting hit on the road overnight. We didn't need any more roadkill on our hands than we already had.
In the morning, I called the state police and asked for a tag so that I could take the deer legally, but they don't take that kindly to out of staters and flatlanders so I had to have Zak call it in. Being a Vermont resident, all he had to do was give them his name and phone number and they gave him a tag number for free.
In the state of Vermont, any species, except those that are federally protected, can be taken after a collision with a vehicle. Furbearers (beaver, raccoon, mink, fox, coyote, otter, fisher, bobcat etc) and big game animals (deer, moose, bear, and turkey) are legal to take but one must contact Fish and Wildlife to obtain permission and a tag. A warden may come out and see the animal before issuing a tag to be sure that it was not killed illegally (no one came out to see the deer).
One may begin to process the animal before a warden comes but the tag number must be in a clearly visible place with all parts of the animal. If in doubt, it is best to keep the head and cape intact and attached to each other, and your name and address/phone number attached. You could also take many photographs of the animal from all angles before doing anything with it.
Other animals that have a legal season and bag limit (grouse, squirrel, rabbit, etc) and those without protection in Vermont (woodchuck, red squirrel, etc) may be picked up without contacting anyone, but it is always best just to check in first. Reports of wildlife-vehicle collisions are often helpful to Fish and Wildlife so that they may estimate population size, travel routes, and range.
These are the laws in Vermont. Other states have different laws, many are similar to the laws here. The one law that is the same in every single state is the prohibition of possessing a federally protected species (mostly birds of prey and songbirds) without a special permit (these permits can be obtained by educational institutions, such as schools and museums). Click this sentence for a list of all protected species.
It is always best to check with your state Fish and Wildlife Department to obtain your local regulations regarding roadkill. Do this BEFORE you want to pick anything up. It is much better to know the laws ahead of time. If you anticipate collecting any roadkill, keep Fish and Wildlife's phone number in your vehicle so you can call and get a tag immediately. I'd also suggest keeping garbage bags, gloves, and a knife.
This post is the second in a long series I will be doing about roadkill, so if you liked this post, keep your eye out for more. In the meantime, there are several books that everyone and anyone who deals with processing any animals (farmed, hunted, or roadkilled) should own. The first is Extreme Survival Meat: A Guide for Safe Scavenging, Pemmican Making, and Roadkill by Tamarack Song. This book discusses food safety when consuming wild meats (although I have found that it really applies to all meat), as well as tips for using and cooking the ENTIRE animal.
The second book that should be owned by hunters, farmers, scavengers, and homesteaders alike is Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game by John J. Mettler. I can't even describe to you how useful I have found this bible of butchery to be. It describes the breaking down of the most common farm-raised and hunted creatures in the utmost detail. It is definitely worth every penny.
Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completely accurate or complete, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them.