SALEM — Roadkill—it’s what’s for dinner!
Well, if you accidentally strike a deer or elk, or see one on the side of the road, and want to salvage it, that is. A new state law that allows for the salvage of deer and elk killed accidentally in a vehicle collision went into effect on Jan. 1, 2019 and since then as many as 800 deer or elk have been legally gleaned from Oregon’s roads and highways. (See map for distribution of where animals were salvaged this year.)
If you do come across a road-struck deer or elk, you’ll need to fill out a permit online and provide information like your name and the location. The process is managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, find out more information and a link the free permit at https://myodfw.com/articles/roadkill-salvage-permits
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if the animal is appropriate for human consumption. Roadkill meat is not always edible due to trauma to the animal or the time it’s been exposed to the elements. ODFW and Oregon State Police (OSP) do not perform meat inspections for road-killed animals so consume the meat at your own risk.
If you do salvage an animal, you are required to remove the entire animal including gut piles from the road and the road right of way. Be sure to remove the animal in a safe manner as the state of Oregon is not liable for any loss or damage arising from the recovery, possession, use, transport or consumption of deer or elk salvaged.
Another requirement to use the free salvage permit is to return the head to an ODFW office within 10 business days (please make an appointment before showing up). The program only allows the salvage of deer and elk for meat, not for the antlers. ODFW tests the heads it receives as part of its disease surveillance program—especially for Chronic Wasting Disease, an always fatal neurological disease that has never been detected in Oregon but has been found in other states.
The sale of any part of the salvaged animal is prohibited, but transferring some of the meat to another person is allowed with a written record similar to the Wildlife Transfer Record found in the hunting regulations or online. Long-standing regulations prohibit the sale of game meat, as “market hunting” decimated wildlife populations in the 19th and early 20th centuries in Oregon and across the Unites States.
To date, the majority of roadkill salvaged animals have been around Corvallis, Springfield and Bend which is understandable as these are populated areas with high road and traffic densities. Most permits were issued for black-tailed deer (found in western Oregon). This time of year (Fall), ODFW sees an uptick in bucks being hit by vehicles, which was also expected due to the rut (breeding season when bucks will be on the move and more aggressive) and seasonal migrations to winter range that happen at this time of year. For example, permits issued increased in number from 55 in July to 81 in August to 115 in September.
Salvaging roadkill had been unlawful in Oregon until this year due to concerns about poaching. Senator Bill Hansell, who introduced the bill, wanted to change the law and allow roadkill to be salvaged so these animals might not go to waste—and the 2017 Oregon State Legislature that passed the bill and Governor Brown who signed it, agreed. If you do come across a road-struck deer or elk and are able to salvage the meat, enjoy the meal but please remember to salvage the animal safely and legally.
And while salvage of meat is a silver lining, it is tragic when wildlife are lost to vehicle accidents. In Oregon, state agencies like ODFW and the Oregon Department of Transportation, plus groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Oregon Hunters Association, are working to build wildlife crossings that allow wildlife to safety cross over or under busy highways at historic migration routes. Crossings along Hwy 97 near Sunriver have reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions nearly 90 percent and more are being built in central Oregon.