Roadkill cuisine: a guide to why and where you should pick up that possum

roadkill cuisineReduce, reuse, recycle is hardly a new concept. Except when it’s applied to roadkill. Oh, sure, backwoods folk, the itinerant, and gritty survivalist types have been making good use of roadside casualties for years. Slowly but surely however, the benefits of roadkill cuisine have been creeping into the public conscience.

Witness the popularity of The Original Roadkill Cookbook and its ilk, or the new Travel Channel series, “The Wild Within,” in which host/outdoor journalist Steven Rinella travels the world channeling his inner hunter-gatherer (see “San Francisco Roadkill Raccoon” clip at the end of this post). It’s only a matter of time before hipsters get in on this, mark my words.

Lest you think I’m making light of what is essentially a tragic waste of life: I’m an animal lover, grew up on a ranch, and my dad is a large animal veterinarian. I’ve slaughtered livestock, and admittedly have a somewhat utilitarian outlook on the topic of meat. That said, few things upset me more than seeing a dead animal or bird on the road.

The first time I ever thought of roadkill as having a purpose is when I visited Alaska a decade ago. A guide informed me that the state not only permits the use of roadkill for human consumption, but that there’s a waiting list. Think about it: a moose carcass can feed a family for a year. It’s only fairly recently that I learned every state has different regulations that apply to roadkill (more on that in a minute).

If you can overcome your initial disgust at the thought of plucking a carcass from the road and doing the necessary prep to render it casserole-ready, utilizing roadkill makes sense. No, seriously.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Irargerich]roadkill cuisinePros

  • It’s economical.
  • It utilizes a perfectly good (usually) protein source that would otherwise go to waste.
  • It’s giving a purpose to an otherwise wasted life
  • It’s ecologically responsible.
  • It’s a free, nutritious food source that can help sustain anyone, including individuals or families in need.
  • Many roadkill species taste great, and command premium prices when farm-raised and sold retail (elk, venison, boar, certain game birds).
  • It’s free of the hormones and/or antibiotics found in factory farmed meat and poultry.
  • It’s a better, kinder, more responsible alternative to poaching.

Cons

  • Parasites and disease

Obviously, if the meat looks bad, don’t use it. But wild animals can also play host to a wide variety of parasitic and bacterial critters invisible to the naked eye. It’s critical to thoroughly cook meat to kill any pathogens (fortunately, braising is the best method of preparing most roadkill species, as it renders the meat more tender). If you’re freaked out by the thought of ingesting roadkill for this reason, think about how often ground beef recalls are issued due to E. coli. Personally, I’d rather eat roadkill, when I think about what’s in the average fast food burger.

So now that you know roadkill is generally fine to use as long as it’s fresh and not too damaged, what are the rules? Well, it depends upon what state you’re in (for the record, roadkill cuisine isn’t just a U.S. thing, waste not, want not being a global concept). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website has a state-by-state directory of Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Fish and Game/Fish and Wildlife/Division of Wildlife offices; each state has different rules as to which office oversees roadkill regulations. In many states, permits are issued by state troopers or county law enforcement.
roadkill cuisine
Be aware that in many states, collection of roadkill is illegal, although drivers are asked to call and report dead animals so they can be properly disposed of. The most expedient thing to do if you hit an animal/see fresh roadkill is to call local law enforcement.

For your perusal, a sampling of regulations for states that permit collection (or “salvage”) of roadkill:

Western U.S.
Alaska: Sets the bar for philanthropic roadkill rules. All specimens are considered the property of the state, and by law, drivers must alert state troopers if they spot roadkill. If the meat is fresh and in good condition, the carcass is butchered by volunteers, and distributed to the needy. Roadkill wait lists are also available for the general populace living in rural areas.
Wyoming: As long as you have it tagged by a game warden (to deter poaching), it’s yours.
Colorado: Obtain a “donation certificate” or tag issued by the Division of Wildlife, first.

Midwest
Illinois: If you hit it, you can keep it, as long as you’re a resident, not delinquent in child support payments (um, okay…), and don’t have your wildlife privileges suspended in any other state. Deer must be reported to the DNR prior to claiming.
Nebraska: If you hit a deer, antelope, or elk, report it to the Parks and Game Commission to obtain a salvage permit before you butcher the carcass.

Northeast
New Jersey: Get a permit by calling a state trooper, and you can collect deer.
West Virginia: If you report the fatality within 12 hours; it’s legal to remove and consume any and all roadkill. There’s even an annual roadkill cook-off.

Southern U.S.
Georgia: Hit a bear, report it, and it’s yours. Deer don’t have to be reported.

A few states that prohibit collection of roadkill
California
Texas
Wisconsin
Tennessee
Washington
roadkill cuisine
An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of roadkill
Ideally, the goal is to avoid creating roadkill at all. In 2008, the Federal Highway Administration estimated between one and two million vehicular collisions with large wildlife species occur annually in the U.S.. Only a small number of those result in human fatality, but it can certainly wreck or mess up a car. When you also consider smaller animals/birds, collisions can have a devastating impact upon wildlife populations, especially on already threatened species. Many states have instituted wildlife tunnels underneath highways that are considered high impact zones (this could be due to migratory patterns, easy road access, etc.).

Please drive carefully in designated wildlife or rural areas (you know, where you see those glaring yellow, triangular road signs with deer or cows or elk pictured on them), and try to avoid driving at dawn or dusk, which is when large game head out to feed. Night driving should also be avoided if you can avoid it, or undertaken with extreme caution. Trust me, after years of living in the mountains of Colorado, I’ve seen more than my share of wildlife road death (and unfortunately contributed to the early demise of a few prairie dogs and rabbits). I’ve also seen what a run-in with a moose can do to a car, and it’s not pretty.

Obviously, it’s not worth causing a multiple-car accident to avoid an animal in the road, but stay alert, don’t text or use your cell phone without a headset, drive within the speed limit, and odds are, you’ll never have a problem. Worst case scenario, please be a responsible citizen, and pull over to make sure the animal is dead. Regardless of how you feel about animals or eating roadkill, no living creature should be allowed to suffer. Have a heart. Then take it home and cook it.

[Photo credit: bbq, Flickr user The Suss-Man (Mike), deer, Flicker user Eric Bégin]


Five states where you’re most likely to hit a deer this fall

Leaf-peepers are about to hit the road in force – as they always do this time of year. While soaking in the burning foliage colors with your eyes, it’s only too easy to forget you’re behind the wheel, a situation that can lead to disastrous consequences. There are some states where beautiful foliage and deer prancing on the streets just seem to go together, according to a study by insurance company State Farm. So, if your autumn plans include scoping out the trees, make sure you look out for deer, too.

Here are the five states where you’re most likely to wind up with Bambi on the hood of your car if you aren’t careful (with the likelihood of doing so):

1. West Virginia: 1 in 42 (I didn’t see this one coming!)

2. Iowa: 1 in 67

3. Michigan: 1 in 70

4. South Dakota: 1 in 76

5. Montana: 1 in 82What’s particularly surprising is that none of the states usually considered to be leaf-peeping destinations made the top five, let alone showed high risk of deer collisions. Massachusetts and New Hampshire are low-risk, with New York, Vermont and Maine only showing medium risk. You’re more likely to wash venison off your hood in Arkansas than you are in New Jersey, a state where deer corpses are not uncommon on the side of the road.

Interestingly, the number of miles driven by U.S. motorists, according to State Farm, has grown only 2 percent in the past five years … while the number of deer/car smacks has surged 20 percent. From July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2010, there were approximately 2.3 million collisions between deer and vehicles. The average cost for an incident was $3,013.

[Chart via Terms + Conditions: Insurance Industry Blog]

Related:
America’s best drive: the Beartooth All-American Road
Ten most badass animals native to the US
7 of the craziest, most dangerous, most dizzying hikes in the world (VIDEOS)
The 10 countries with the world’s worst drivers

The worst potholes in the world – take the Gadling tour

Join us on a tour of the worst potholes in the world – and find out which American city makes many third world countries look like a bunch of amateurs with their potholes.

Harare, Zimbabwe

According to its residents, nowhere in the world is the pothole situation worse than in Harare. Unlike potholes that just make your ride a bit bumpy, their potholes actually attempt to swallow your car.


Chicago, IL

Chicago is on par with many third world countries when it comes to road repairs.

Not only does the city have 100′s of miles of poorly maintained roads, they also lack the money/manpower/will/interest to repair them.

The city keeps telling residents that they have crews working around the clock, but try telling that to the 1000′s of people who need to buy new wheels for their car after hitting one of these monstrous holes. Chicago even has a special portion on their web site where drivers can file a claim for pothole damage.

Yes – the city of Chicago is so behind on their pothole repairs that KFC decided to fill the holes themselves, and use the whole thing for a bit of goodwill generating PR.

Colombo, Srilanka

Colombo is one of those cities where potholes morph into sinkholes. Large amounts of rain scour the ground from under the roadbed, and the result is the kind of hole that can swallow a car.

Another Colombo pot/sinkhole. Thankfully it doesn’t look like any vehicles were lost in this thing, but you can clearly see some damaged pipes and other infrastructure in the massive hole.

Jamaica

Bad combination – super relaxing island and the kind of pothole that will really put a dent in your day (and wheels). It is bad enough when you hit one of these things with your car, but popping the front wheel of your moped or bike in them is enough to turn your bike seat into an ejector seat.

Michigan potholes from hell



I’ll let this video clip speak for itself.

New Orleans, LA

It’s not really fair to criticize New Orleans for their potholes – the city is still recovering from Katrina, but that doesn’t make this pothole less impressive. Notice the car tire on the left, showing just how deep this thing is.

Xiamen City, China

Ouch. The only thing worse than hitting a killer Chinese pothole, is hitting one when a photographer is standing there waiting for you to go flying, just so he can snap a great picture.

Liu Tao was criticized for not warning cyclists of the danger lying ahead of them. If you enjoy seeing people get hurt, or just want to know how the fall ends, check out the other photos at the source article.

In Russia, pothole drive you?

Funny how you can make almost any video interesting by adding some snappy Greek music to the background!

Kiev, Ukraine

I’m not sure whether this pothole appeared out of the blue when people were coming down the road, or whether these cars were simply parked in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it sure looks like an expensive mess.

New York, NY

For the final pothole in this lineup, what better place than New York City? Seriously, when the potholes get this big, you may be better off leaving the car at home and sticking with public transport.

How safe is ferry travel? It depends on where you are.

With the recent ferry accident in the Philippines still in the news, ferry safety comes to mind. According to this research study, Ferry Transport: The Realm of Responsibility, ferries are generally safe in Europe, the U.S. and other developed countries. In countries like Bangladesh, Somalia and Indonesia, it’s another story.

In all, there were 4,000 ferry accidents world-wide from January 2000 to March 2004. The fatalities are counted by the bodies recovered, therefore, the numbers could be much higher. If you’re curious about the statistics, look at the table on page 3 out of 15. It lists the countries where the accidents have happened, what caused them and how many people died in each one.

However, as the author points out, fatalities caused by car wrecks in the United States are at the same percentage as the ferry fatalities in Bangladesh where accidents are a big problem. (That’s if you look at each country’s population and the number of people who die in an accident. In the U.S. it’s cars. In Bangladesh, it’s ferries. That’s my understanding of what I read.)

Because ferry accidents are a concern in Bangladesh and other emerging countries, a project was initiated by an organization called Interferry in 2006 to cut down on ferry accidents by 90%. The organization is focusing its efforts in Bangladesh first.

As Interferry points out, every time there is a ferry accident in a country, tourists begin to wonder about their safety when traveling there. That’s not good news for an economy.

Of course, in the case of Somalia, ferry accidents probably aren’t the biggest drawback to visiting. Bangladesh, I’ve heard, has lovely beaches.