Friday, January 20, 2012

Rule could make roadkill fair game

‘Roadkill rule’ would allow citizens to possess vehicle-killed animals


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Idaho law prevents opportunists from picking up salvageable meat or hides from animals killed by cars, but that could change if a new rule proposed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is approved by the Legislature. Photo by Mountain Express

A new rule proposed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game on Monday could be a boon for fly fishermen and roadkill connoisseurs alike, as it would allow citizens to salvage roadkill for personal use.

"Right now, if someone were to hit an animal, that animal remains in the trust of the state," said department Deputy Director Sharon Kiefer. "You can't cut hair off the pelt, you can't possess any part of the animal."

Currently, there is no provision in Idaho law to allow citizens to take any part of an animal accidentally killed by humans, including those killed by motor vehicle collisions.

Kiefer said the department does have the ability to entrust an individual or an organization with parts of that animal, and Fish and Game typically gives salvageable meat to area food banks. However, the process for this is long and onerous, and Kiefer said a new salvage rule would make the process more efficient.

"We're trying to make it as easy as possible for everyone involved," she said.

In addition, current rule is difficult for department law-enforcement officers to uphold. Officers cover about 100 square miles of territory and are generally occupied with other tasks, Kiefer said.

"Dealing with that is not the highest priority," she said. "We use our enforcement discretion wisely."

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The proposed rule would allow only game animals to be salvaged. Protected nongame animals, such as wolverines, would not be included.

Kiefer said that the more common animals she would expect to be picked up by wildlife opportunists would include mule deer, elk and raccoons.

"When you think about furbearers in general, they are not the more common animals hit, especially along urban roadways," she said. "A badger is one of the more common furbearers that is likely to be hit, and a red fox is not uncommon, but when you think about your own travels, how often have you seen a beaver or a river otter hit along the side of the roadway?"

The department holds an annual fundraising auction of hides, horns and other items that have either been unclaimed or gained through a legal ruling or salvage. The rule may lead to a slight decrease in state revenue, but Kiefer said it wouldn't be a significant loss.

"If someone salvages an elk, that's one less hide that we have to auction," she said. "But most of the animals we're dealing with are not animals we are dealing with through salvage."

If the rule is upheld by the Legislature, the department will develop a reporting system for salvaged animals and educate the public about the rules and regulations involved in picking up an animal killed by a car.

"Obviously, as with any kind of new rule, if it gets approved we'll have a lot of outreach to do," Kiefer said. "That is something we will have to work out."

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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