Roadkill for dinner?

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, September 14, 2017

To some, roadkill may not sound like the most appetizing meal on the menu. But for others, it’s considered a valuable resource.

According to N.H. Fish and Game Conservation Officer Eric Hannett, the department only picks up big game – deer, moose, and bear – when they are struck and killed by vehicles. Sometimes the animal is already dead when an officer arrives, but other times they have to dispatch it right there on the side of the road. 

Hannett said if the animal is salvageable, preference goes to the person who hit the animal. If that person doesn't want the animal, there is always someone who will take it.

“I don’t think there’s ever been an instance where I couldn’t find someone to take an animal,” Hannett said. 

He said some people follow the scanners closely and show up at the scene when an officer is dispatched to a call. Hannett said there have been times when multiple people have shown up and it’s difficult to determine who should get the animal.

He said local police departments and conservation officers also keep a short list of people who they know will pick roadkill up.

Fish and Game Conservation Officer Bill  Boudreau’s said his list contains seven or eight names. Don Huntington, of Rindge, is one of those people. 

Huntington said one night in 2011 three moose were struck by vehicles. While he was on his way to pick up the first moose, he received a second call about another moose that had been killed. Huntington said with the help of a friend he was able to eviscerate the two animals and load them into the bed of a truck.

“I was joking with my friend. I said, ‘If we hit one more, we would have a full truck,” Huntington said.

And sure enough, on their way back from picking up the two dead moose, Huntington and his friend struck a third. Huntington said the accident sent him to the hospital, but even so, the moose was salvaged and added to the pile of meat they picked up that night. 

Huntington, who is a longtime hunter, said he put his name on a statewide moose lottery for 13 years but had never been picked. He said he took about an eighth of the moose meat that was salvaged that night in 2011. A lot of the rest was donated, he said. 

“Eight families got the meat from those three moose,” Huntington said. “That’s a ton off of the grocery bill.”

He said one of the people who received some of the meat has something wrong with his kidneys and can’t process regular meats found in the grocery store. Huntington said moose meat has lower cholesterol and that the person was able to digest the moose meat.

Kent Gustafson, a wildlife program supervisor, said about 1,400 deer, 150 moose, and 55 bears are hit by vehicles every year in New Hampshire. He said those numbers have remained fairly constant throughout the years, although the tally of moose killed has gone down in recent years. The numbers peaked in the late 1990s and the early 2000s when the department recorded about 275 moose vs. vehicle deaths per year. He said a reduction in moose populations because of winter ticks, and a “Brake for Moose” campaign have contributed to fewer collisions with the animal.

Mark Carbone, president of the Monadnock Rod and Gun Club, said the ideal scenario for salvaging a roadkill is that there is a chain of witnesses and a verifiable timeline involved.

That’s because if it’s warm weather, the meat can turn quickly. If it’s cold, it will keep longer. He said it’s also important to know if the animal expired immediately or not. If the animal was under great stress at the time it died, adrenaline may have shot through the animal’s body, which can affect the taste of the meat. 

Carbone said if an animal is cleanly struck, with minimal damage to the body, and is harvested soon afterward, then there isn’t much difference between roadkill and an animal killed by an arrow or a bullet in the woods.

“Personally I would not eat ‘mystery’ roadkill,” Carbone said. “However I certainly would harvest a deer if I hit one. I’d put that lean, natural, steroid-free, antibiotic-free venison in my freezer any day.”

What to do

If you have witnessed an animal hit by a motor vehicle or hit one yourself call law enforcement dispatch at 271-3361. They will contact the closest local law enforcement officer to evaluate the situation and determine the proper course of action.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.