One of the best aspects of hiking is the escape that it provides from your everyday life. Getting lost – even briefly – in nature allows you to forget that the rest of the world exists. But what happens when you leave the trail and return home? Someone up in Maine decided to plant a remote camera along a trail that cuts through his property. Along with hikers, he recorded footage of moose, deer and even a bear traversing the exact same trail. It’s an eery reminder that while you’re hiking, you’re in animals’ homes.
Reduce, 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]Pros
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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]
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
I keep myself safely secluded in the SkyMall Monday headquarters. It’s built inside a mountain, under several hundred feet of granite, in a secure and secret location. This protects me from the fearsome animals that I now assume rule the Earth. While I fear all wildlife and assume that they are out to get me (and/or my Lucky Charms), I do enjoy their decorative properties. But how can I take advantage of the aesthetic qualities of our furry, feathered and scaled friends without being bitten, constricted or dry humped? Taxidermy is expensive and requires first killing animals before they have a chance to kill me. That seems not only difficult but likely to involve unseemly people who peddle in taxidermy and will most certainly make me uncomfortable. That leaves only one viable option for harnessing the majestic beauty of creatures both real, imagined and extinct: lawn ornaments. Lawn ornaments tell everyone in your neighborhood that you’re classy and bored. But where can I satiate my appetite for animal lawn ornaments? Who would have such a buffet of faux-fauna? Who could possibly…oh, come on, you know the answer to these questions. It’s SkyMall’s time to shine! Leave your tranquilizer darts and nets at home. You won’t need them on this safari. Simply pack your imagination and obliviousness to your tacky sense of style. We’re hunting wild lawn ornaments.SkyMall product descriptions in italics followed by my thoughts on these fine works of “art.”
T-Rex Dinosaur Sculpture – Visitors will admire your creative garden style as T-Rex makes a Mesozoic statement! And you won’t understand their Cenozoic response. Nerd joke. Look it up.
Brown Bear Garden Sculpture – Our realistically sculpted, 3-1/2-foot-long mischievous Brown Bear is sculpted 360 degrees to be admired from all sides while lumbering through your garden. I like to admire bears from the backside. Yep, I like bear back.
Raccoon Garden Sculpture - They can be a nuisance–but posed in this adorable pile-up of three, raccoons can also be among Mother Nature’s most endearing creatures. Who doesn’t want to cuddle with some raccoons. Why not create a realistic scene and scatter some garbage around them. And get a dozen or so shots in your stomach for the pretend rabies. Adorable!
Garden Deer Sculpture – “The privilege of a visit from a majestic six-point buck isn’t confined to the tradition of grand European landscapes! The quintessential garden piece, our amazingly accurate investment in garden art stands four-feet-long and over a yard tall, complete with an enviable rack of antlers. A visit from a buck is a privilege not a right. You have to earn it by covering yourself in fake deer urine and sitting in a tree all day. Also, there is no lawn ornament more quintessential than a giant deer. And if you envy antlers, you can always get some of your own. But if you envy antlers, well, you have issues, man. Serious, serious issues.
The Regal Peacock – Almost a full yard of metallic gold and iridescent blue plumage shines in an expansive panorama in this classic English garden piece. Our artisans have hand-painted each feather of this highly textural work in the peacock’s royal palette. I have no joke here. Just high praise for the lofty prose used by one bold and highfalutin SkyMall employee. No plumage is as alluring as his wordsmithing.
Dragon of Falkenburg Castle – Your neighbors will steer clear when they see this intricately sculpted, more than two-foot-long dragon stretched out in your flower bed. This lifelike sculpture is complete with scales, wings and a treacherous tail. Yeah, blame the dragon for keeping your neighbors away. That’s the ticket. Also, who knows what a lifelike dragon would look like? Who here has seen a dragon? Quick show of hands. Anyone? In the back there? No? OK, moving on.
Musical Raccoon Maestro – Greet passing garden visitors with a rousing performance of Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song,” and you’ll get a standing ovation every time. This cute conductor is wearing an appropriately formal black-tie-and-tails outfit and has a motion-activated sound chip for surprising and delighting his audiences. I’d prefer a casually dressed squirrel that plays Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride.”
See, you don’t need to venture to the wilds of Africa or Wal-Mart to have animal encounters. You can assemble your own menagerie that will show your neighbors that you are fashionable, sophisticated and not at all lonely. Be it raccoons, a deer or an extinct predator, you will be the undisputed beastmaster of your trailer park.
As for me, I’ll stay in my bunker. My mountain fortress has no lawn to ruin with ornaments.
Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.
I’m not sure where these animals are. A zoo? The wild? Which country? Hector G. Lincz who took this shot, doesn’t say. But what a lovely way to capture an image and a mood. When I saw this photo, I was reminded of one of Karen’s techniques for self portraits. This is another way to use a side mirror. Along with the perfect framing, there’s a voyeristic quality I find intriguing. It’s hard to place the car or the viewer. Perhaps this is another way into Narnia?
If you’ve captured an unusual view. Send it our way at Gadling’s Flickr Photo Pool. It might be picked as a Photo of the Day.