Personally, I’ve never seen roadkill and thought, “I should eat that.” But I’ve always been curious if I could.
Let’s say you’re driving home after a long day at work. You’re hungry, there’s no food in the house, and you’re mulling options for dinner. You can order in, stop at the grocery store, or dig through the cabinet for an old can of beans.
Then you hit a deer. You pull over and find the deer is very much dead. You have the skills, equipment and wherewithal to butcher it yourself. Can you eat it? Can you toss it in the trunk, bring the body home and start preparing a delicious venison dinner?
It turns out the answer is yes, with some caveats.
Here’s how it works according to Chapter 147 of the Pennsylvania Code: If you hit a white-tailed deer (or a turkey), or find one already dead on the side of the road, you’re required to contact your regional Game Commission and request a Consumption Permit within 24 hours of taking possession of the carcass. You’ll have to hand over any inedible parts of the animal to the Game Commission — antlers, etc. — so if you’re looking for a new wall ornament, this is not the legal way to go.
Is there any reason a consumption permit would be declined? Allegheny County Wildlife Conservation Officer Doug Bergman tells City Paper that there have been cases where hunters will try to pass off an illegal kill as roadkill — i.e. shooting an animal out of season and claiming to have just found it on the side of the road. But Bergman says it’s pretty easy to tell if an animal has been hit by a car, a car has been hit by an animal, or most obviously, if an animal has been shot with a gun. I have to say, that caper seems pretty transparently dumb. But if you’re above board and get the permit, you’re good to go.
But let’s say you don’t want to eat it. Maybe you hit a furry little critter and think, “I could wear that.” Can you pop it in the trunk and take it home for a pelt?
The answer is yes, if you have a fur-takers license — $20.90 for adults — in which case you can take it all home, edible and inedible parts and all. The only caveat here is if you happen to hit a river otter, fisher (it’s a small carnivorous mammal, not a fisherman) or bobcat, of which there are a surprising number in Pennsylvania; you may not take those.
It should also be mentioned that these only apply to “accidental” roadkill, so don’t get any ideas.