Strange New Cases

Roadkill, anyone? California legalizes eating of animals killed in vehicular accidents

While at face value this may sound ridiculous, Captain Alexis Fecteau learned that California has signed, during a legislative session just this past October, a new law which effectively allows residents of the Golden State to pick up, bring home, and eat animals that they or other drivers have killed with a vehicle. 

This Wildlife Traffic Safety Act makes it legal for Californian motorists to remove from roads and highways the carcasses of killed animals and cook them for dinner.  Before this was made into law, it’s a crime for citizens to even touch roadkill; only state and local authorities had been allowed to do so legally. Those who espoused the bill banked on the statistics: thousands of animals get hit by moving vehicles in California annually, 20,000 of which are deer.

Also known as California Senate Bill 395, the Wildlife Traffic Safety Act states that as it is fine by law for a person to “accidentally take” a mammal, amphibian, bird, or reptile from the road if it was killed due to a vehicular accident.  Naturally this assumes that the killing of the animal is not on purpose. 

However, anyone who gets involved in this particular incident can only claim the dead animal if they’ve secured what the same law calls as “a wildlife salvage permit.”  Interestingly (and perhaps funnily as well), this permit can be accessed in the future via a mobile app, whose pilot program is scheduled to “roll out” by the beginning of January 2022.  

It must be noted that this strange, new law comes with a variety of exceptions.  Keep in mind, first and foremost, that it is premised on the killing of any animal on the road <i>accidentally</i>.  That itself raises lots of complications.  It might be difficult to prove in court that, for example, the elk you brought home had not been hit intentionally.  It’s a gray area that needs to be better explained, for sure.  

Secondly, and more importantly, your wildlife salvage permit does not let you take home and partake of any endangered animal species.  Dealing with any accidentally killed animal on the endangered list is still limited to local and state authorities.  So, if you’re in doubt, perhaps take a photo first and/or inquire from animal welfare online.  To be on the safe side, it’s still better to not even touch any animal you’re not familiar with.  

Smart alecks would surely raise the issue of what ultimately makes for a “vehicle.”  To be clear, we’re not in the 19th century and driving horse carriages, so that should be out of the picture. But the new California law didn’t specify if it refers only to motorized vehicles, so that may need to be clarified.  Nevertheless, it’s safe to assume as much, as you probably won’t generate enough speed on a horse cart to kill any crossing wildlife, especially something as big as a moose.