Roadkill salvage laws save meat
In the first year since salvaging roadkill became legal, Oregonians picked up more than 1,500 elk and deer.
Columbia County motorists picked up more than eight elk and 50 deer in 2019 after the animals were hit and killed by drivers.
Motorists who hit deer or who encountered fresh roadkill can retrieve the animal for their own consumption.
Those who pick up the animal are required to file for a permit with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife within 24 hours of retrieving the animal and must turn the antlers and head into an ODFW field office.
Jonah Kubecka, a Scappoose resident, picked up a black-tailed deer in late November at Old Portland Road and Becky Lane in St. Helens.
The deer appeared to have been hit in the head, leaving the body intact.
"I got more meat off that deer than I would have got if I had shot it with a rifle," Kubecka said.
Those who pick up the roadkill have typically been hunters who are able to judge the safety of the meat, which depends not only on the time the animal has been deceased, but the weather, position, and where the animal was injured.
The deer wasn't roadkill when Kubecka first drove by but was there just a half hour later when he returned from running an errand, meaning it had been recently hit.
Two other times in the last year, Kubecka had pulled over to inspect deceased deer but had found they were too damaged to salvage or had been sitting out for too long.
"I haven't noticed nearly as many dead animals on the side of the road," Kubecka said of the time since salvaging roadkill was legalized. Picking up roadkill also means fewer other animals are put at risk by scavenging on the road.
Kubecka said the prohibition on picking up roadkill always seemed like a waste.
"You just have to let them sit there and they rot," he said.
Terry Stradford, a St. Helens resident, also picked up a deer last year. Stradford retrieved the deer in September on his way home from work. On Highway 30, right off Cornelius Pass Road, Stradford saw the buck and pulled over. Another group of men had also stopped for the deer but were on their way to work so they were unable to take it.
Stradford called the state agent, who gave him a rundown of the rules and restrictions.
"I was excited," Stradford said. "It was a big buck, he'd been around for a while."
The deer hadn't been dead for long; it was warm to the touch and not bloated, which indicated it was still good.
Stradford picked up the deer's remains (the state requires those salvaging roadkill to retrieve the entire carcass, including guts on the road), loaded it into his truck, and brought it home.
The Columbia County Roads Department received around 36 calls to report dead animals in 2019, though that doesn't represent all the animals struck by cars in the county.
The department received slightly fewer calls in prior years, which Wood said may reflect the growing populations in St. Helens and Scappoose.
"We find that in our further out areas, a lot of the residents take care of it on their own," Wood said. "The residents are more used to taking care of themselves so sometimes they don't call us, they can take care of pulling it out (of the roadway) themselves."
Picking up roadkill that doesn't represent a safety risk is a waste of time for the department, Wood said.
"If we're taking care of
this, we're not taking care of other more important things," like road conditions, he explained.
Stradford and Kubecka both mentioned county staff time as a positive for allowing roadkill salvaging.
"It's easier, the county doesn't have to come out and pick up the carcass or whatever they do," Stradford said.
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