In 2019, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife began issuing permits to people who wanted to collect roadkill animals for their meat, hides and other parts. Previously, there was no legal way for people to make use of such a dead animal, no matter how fresh.
ODFW issues permits for free, allowing people to take home deer, elk, turkeys, raccoons, opossums and squirrels that they hit or that look fresh enough to them.
If you feel like dining at the Roadkill Grill yourself: All you have to do is collect the entire animal (you can’t butcher it at the roadside and leave the guts behind – that could attract a scavenger that might also be hit), then call ODFW and report the find, the species and sex of the animal, and whether you were the one who hit it.
Normally, you would be required to bring the head into an ODFW office within five days to be examined by the Department, but offices are closed due to the Coronavirus emergency. For the time being, the requirement is being waived, except for deer and elk — the requirement that deer and elk heads and antlers must be surrendered is in the statute and can’t be waived by ODFW. If the antlers are broken off, retrieve them: otherwise, the carcass will be ineligible for a permit.
White-tailed deer can’t be salvaged in Western Oregon because they’re a protected species west of the Cascades. That designation keeps them safe from hunting (although not from cars).
What if you hit an animal and don’t quite kill it? You are allowed to finish it off yourself if you can do so safely, or you can call police, who will euthanize it.
Less driving has meant less road kill: You might think that with so many people off work due to the restrictions, more people would be snagging roadkill to eat, but actually permit requests are down from this time last year. Perhaps that’s because fewer people are driving, and thus fewer animals are becoming eligible for collection. That would be in line with all the other ways in which nature is recovering since humans have withdrawn from the world.
Finally, let’s hope it’s not necessary to actually say this, but just to be on the safe side: it absolutely isn’t legal to intentionally hit an animal with your car.
By John M. Burt