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.
Alaska may become the first state in the U.S. to ban the use of Tasers on wildlife after the state’s Board of Game passed a proposal that would prohibit the use of “electronic control devices” for hunting. That’s a rather generic term to describe a Taser, a device that uses electricity, delivered by two electrodes on the end of wires, to incapacitate its victim. The weapons are often used by law enforcement to safely subdue a person without doing permanent damage.
Park Rangers and wildlife management officers in Alaska have been carrying Tasers for a number of months now, and the devices have proved quite useful, particularly with bear and moose. Rangers on the Kenai Peninsula for instance, equate carrying a Taser to having an “electric fence in a person’s hand,” using them regularly to scare the animals out of areas they shouldn’t be in. The weapons have even been used, from time to time. to stun an animal to assist it in some way. One ranger recently Tased a moose for instance, so that he could remove a chicken feeder that had become stuck on its head. Before letting the moose go, he was also able to check the overall health of the creature as well.
Now, the fear is that private citizens may start using Tasers to subdue an animal in order to get a picture taken with downed creature. Since the devices can be unreliable at times, especially without proper training, this opens the door to all kinds of potential problems, including permanently injuring or even killing the animal. The hunter could find themselves in trouble as well if the animal were to shake off the effects of the Taser while they’re standing next to it for that photograph.
If the new proposal becomes law, then only properly trained law enforcement officials would be able to use Tasers on wildlife. Perhaps we should rethink this plan however, as anyone who is crazy enough to try to use a Taser on a grizzly bear, just to get close enough for a photograph, may need an introduction to a little concept known as “survival of the fittest.”
An Alaskan woman was given a harsh lesson last week when she was kicked by a moose after attempting to pet it. The moose was spotted in downtown Anchorage, where it was busy feeding on trees, when it reportedly wandered past the unidentified woman, who decided that it might be a good idea to reach out and pet the animal. The moose thought otherwise.
According to witnesses, the creature didn’t take too kindly to be touched, and kicked the woman, described as being in her 20′s, several times, including in the shoulder and chest. Although police and medics were called to the scene, the woman’s injuries were not serious enough to send her to the hospital. The moose appeared to be uninjured as well.
The unidentified young woman should count herself lucky. A moose can easily weigh in excess of 1000 pounds and can do a lot of damage to a person without actually trying. When agitated, they have been known to not only attack anyone standing too close, but also stomp them while they are on the ground. Fortunately in this case, the animal merely reacted to defend itself and moved on.
This story serves as an excellent reminder that when our travels take us into close proximity with wild animals, that we should remember that they are just that – wild! They have no qualms about protecting themselves, or their young, and they can be capable of doing a lot of damage to us puny humans. So the next time you pass a bit too close to a large animal in the wild, be sure to give it a wide berth. And what ever you do, don’t try to pet a moose, even if it is walking through town.
[Photo credit: John J. Mosesso via WikiMedia Commons]
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.
The front desk staff of the Mainstay Suites in Fargo, North Dakota had to deal with an unusual guest. A moose came by the hotel but was unable to communicate his exact needs. So, he hung out in the courtyard for a while, noshing on grass and leaves until a veterinarian, armed with a tranquilizer gun, put him to sleep before he could even get to a bed. Had the moose been able to communicate, he might have had a shot at getting a room. Only 75 percent of the 127 rooms were occupied.
The police were notified of the visitor at 5:45 Tuesday morning – and they were told that the moose seemed to have no interest in leaving. After being tranquilized “in the behind” (the exact quote was noted twice by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in the beginning of the story), he wandered briefly before settling down to snooze. The animal was then carted away by a front-end loader and now calls the Erie Dam Wildlife Management area home.
Now, the moose has a big white “X” on each shoulder, warning hunters not to cap him this season. The beast’s jaunt earned him a stay of execution!