Despite the passage of the “Wildlife Traffic Safety Act,” the result of SB 395, it is still illegal to collect or possess roadkill. However, the new law is paving the way for citizens to use the “salvageable wild game [roadkill] meat” meat of deer, elk, pronghorn antelope or wild pig.
According to data from the CHP, approximately 8,000 large game animal vs. vehicle collisions have occurred statewide over the last six years. These collisions have resulted in over 1,500 injuries and at least 24 fatalities to motorists and their passengers. UC Davis researchers estimate that the costs associated with animal vs. vehicle collisions exceed $200 million annually. But perhaps more tragically, for the large animals involved in these collisions, approximately 40% of them are killed, and many are injured, however the fate of roughly one-third is unknown.
According to the author of SB 395, Bob Archuleta, “By allowing the take of large game animals after a highway collision, and by logging the site of the incident, we not only clean up our highways, we gather the necessary data to prevent the occurrence in the future.”
So if the new law doesn’t allow the taking of roadkill, what does it do? The new change in the law gives the California Fish and Game Commission permission to work with the California Department of Transportation, California Highway Patrol and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment with the goal of ultimately adopting regulations to establish a “salvageable wild game meat utilization program.” Such a program would almost certainly include a permitting and a reporting process.
Currently, California’s best public reporting system on roadkill statistics is that run by the University of California, Davis. (Their California Roadkill Observation System (CROS) allows anyone to contribute roadkill data and photos to the system.) However, the new law allows the Fish and Game Department to create their own roadkill reporting database, with the goal of helping wildlife managers identify the places where wildlife/vehicle collisions are most common. With that information, legislators claim the state can make more pinpointed wildlife conservation efforts.
The permitting process—which per the law’s text, will generate free permits—is expected to be run via a user-friendly and cell-phone-friendly web- based portal. Permitting will take into consideration roadways, locations, species subject to salvage, and any other aspect necessary to ensure the salvage pilot program’s success. With a permit, any person who unintentionally strikes and kills a specified animal on a roadway or who encounters an unintentionally killed animal of eligible species may recover, possess, use or transport the whole animal and salvage the edible portions. That said, only an officer of the Fish and Game department or a law enforcement may kill a severely injured animal that has been struck by a passing vehicle. However, once an injured animal has been euthanized by one of these designated officers, a permitee can lawfully collect the meat.
With this change in the law, California will be one of among half of the states allow roadkill to be collected, processed and eaten.
If you have been arrested or cited for a Fish and Game violation in Sonoma, or any of Sonoma’s surrounding counties, contact Devina Douglas.
Devina strives to make information relevant to the lives of her clients easily accessible.