This is my third post in my roadkill series, check out my other two: Picking up Roadkill: Is it Legal? and Preventing Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions: These 12 Tips Could Save Your Life.
1. Free Food
Who doesn't like free food? And we're not talking small change here. One deer, bear, elk, or moose could supply a family's meat needs for a year! And, depending on where you live, road killed deer are very easy to come by. If you have just a little bit of know how, it will take just one day of to get a deer from road to freezer, well worth it for hundreds of pounds of meat. In some states you have to get a tag for a large game animal like this before you pick it up, but it is usually free. Here in Vermont, you just call the authorities, give them your name and address, and they give you a tag number. Easy peasy and certainly faster than the checkout line at the grocery store. In many states, for most small animals, the call, other than out of courtesty, isn't even required. A squirrel is a pretty small meal, but a grouse, turkey, or raccoon will provide meals for a good couple of days.
2. Delicious cuts that would be expensive at the store.
This is similar to the first reason but bear with me. Have you ever tried venison steak? No? Well trust me, it is the most heavenly piece of meat that will ever cross your lips. First of all, you probably can't even buy that in a store, and second of all, if you did it would be very expensive. Think about buying beef steaks in the store every week. You can't afford that! But you can afford to dine in luxury with roadkill!
3. Totally organic, free range, and natural.
Roadkill is the ultimate free range meat! It is completely organic and has never been exposed to growth hormones or antibiotics. Because of this, it's much, much healthier for you, and for the environment, than any meat at the grocery store. Many people say to me "ew, I can't believe you eat something that eats garbage!!", but the fact of the matter is that most animals do not eat garbage and when they do they are generally eating perfectly good food that you threw away. If a raccoon comes and eats my breakfast that I threw out just hours ago, and then gets hit by a car, how is that any different from feeding your scraps to a pig or chickens and then eating them later that day. So many of the animals that we raise for meat on farms are fed pure garbage too! That tilapia you're buying from China probably had a diet that consisted of pure feces. In general, I do avoid picking up almost all roadkill in urban areas, though. If you are going to go for raccoons, opossums, or skunks, do it in a very rural area. (good luck finding a skunk that didn't spray when it died, if you do, let me know)
4. You don't have to kill anything.
Unless you hit the animal yourself (DONT DO THIS!!! You are a terrible person if you do, there is so much roadkill in this world it is just as easy to pick it up. I understand that it is sometimes unavoidable but don't put yourself, your passengers, and other drivers at risk by swerving to hit an animal.), you're not killing anything. It's already dead and just going to waste if you don't eat it. I know several vegetarians who will only eat roadkilled meat because it was not raised to die and was not killed for their sake. Any homesteader knows that raising livestock is VERY time consuming and expensive. It is a twice daily commitment, but roadkill is a one time deal. It's something you can do on your daily drive to work. If you want wild game, you're going to have to hunt, and sometimes you just dont get anything! Plus, hunting is extremely expensive and time consuming. Oftentimes, it costs more to hunt than to just go buy the meat.
5. Excitement of the hunt/trying new things
I know, I know, you like hunting, it's fun. "Hunting" for roadkill is fun too, and you can use it to supplement and diversify the meat that is already in your pantry. Looking for roadkill makes every car ride fun and exciting (just wait until you get your first deer). It is sort of like eye spy, except you get really good at identifying animals really fast. I consider roadkill one of my hobbies, and once people know that about you, they don't forget it quickly. After awhile you won't even have to look for it anymore, people will bring it right to you or at least give you a good tip every now and again. Once an animal is hit, you have to spring into action immediately, picking it up before anyone else does or before it gets hit a million more times. Especially if the weather has been warm, you need to gut it out and get it on ice ASAP. If you like some excitement in your life, this could be your new thing.
6. Respect Wildlife
Did you know that more than 360 million animals are killed in collisions with vehicles every year? The large majority of those animals simply rot away on the pavement. Another human has killed this animal and left it, now its your opportunity to make amends by removing it from the road at the very minimum. My #1 rule is "If you kill it, you eat it", it's simple respect. Imagine if you saw someone hit a person, or a dog or a cat, with their car and then just leave. I'm not saying you should eat humans or dogs or cats, but at least do something about it for decency's sake!
7. Prevent scavengers from being hit
Okay, even if you don't want to eat it, at least move deceased animals from the road. If you don't eat it, something else will. A large percentage of animals that are hit each year, are only on the road because they are trying to eat another animal that has been hit. Unfortunately, this includes many predators that are threatened or endangered, inlcuding wolves, owls, eagles, etc. Even our majestic national symbol, the bald eagle often relies heavily on roadkill during certain times of the year. Many are killed by motorists while feeding on roadkill, which is very unfortunate for both the bird and the driver as killing a bald eagle can land you with thousands of dollars in fines and years in prison. If it is safe to do so, please move roadkilled wildlife at least 100 ft from the road.
8. Try new crafts
Animals have a lot more on them than meat, including bones, hides, sinew, feet, teeth, feathers, quills, antlers, etc. Crafting with animal parts is an artform in itself, but it is also fairly easy to do many projects. You can make so many millions of items from animal parts, including jewelry, tools (fishing hooks and lures, bone needles, awls, knife handles, etc, etc), tanned hide (clothing, drums, bags, etc), pipe stems, arrowheads and bindings, educational tools, the list literally goes on forever.
9. Valuable skillset (the apocalypse?)
If the end of the world ever comes (fingers crossed?), I know that I'm going to want to know how to use every last bit of an animal for food and tools. If I am hungry, I am going to want to know if a dead animal is good to eat or not. Roadkill is an excellent way to practice as it is readily available and there's no harm done if you mess up (just please, please, please don't make yourself sick). Do your research!! Understand food safety thoroughly, always err on the side of caution, and always trust your nose. Find a mentor, either a fellow roadkill collector or an experienced hunter or butcher to help you in the beginning.
10. Learn about nature
Looking at roadkill is one of the best ways that I know of to get to know an animal really up close and personal. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I have learned about ecology and anatomy from dealing with deceased animals. It always amazing to me to see all of their wonderful adaptations up close and to hold them in my hands. Feet especially are my favorite, as much of the knowledge I gained about tracking comes from looking directly at and touching feet.
Eat roadkill at your own risk. If you know what you're doing, and execute the butchery properly, you have a very, very small chance of getting sick. Always practice safe meat handling protocol. If you have any doubt, do not eat it. I have never gotten sick from eating roadkill nor do I know anyone who has (this doesnt mean its not possible, though). I have gotten very sick from farm raised meat. Keep an eye out for upcoming posts on roadkill safety.
In the meantime, here are some excellent resources:
THE DEAD BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD by Gary Synder
How did the great Red-tailed Hawk
come to lie- all stiff and dry-
on the shoulder of
Her wings for dance fans
Zac skinned a skunk with a crushed head
washed the pelt in gas; it hangs,
tanned, in his tent.
Fawn stew on Hallowe'en
hit by a truck on highway forty-nine
offer cornmeal by mouth;
skin it out.
Log trucks run on fossil fuel
I never saw a Ringtail til I found one in the road:
case-skinned it with toenails
footpads, nose, and whiskers on;
it soaks in salt and water
sulphuric acid pickle;
she will be a pouch for magic tools.
The Doe was apparently shot
lengthwise and through the side-
shoulder and out the flank
belly full of blood
Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completely accurate or complete. Sorry, 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. I am not a medical practitioner; consult a health professional before using any herbal remedies.