State Senator bringing life to roadkill issue

Under new legislation, taking home roadkill would require less interaction with authorities, streamlining the process.

Itâ??s a sign of spring: deer are on the move. But many don't make it across the street safely.

A bill working its way through the State House of Representatives would streamline the process for anyone wanting to take roadkill home.

Currently, if you're involved in a crash with an animal and would like to take the critter with you, for food, furs, or another reason, the law mandates you get a salvage tag from the Department of Natural Resources or local police. That process can deter people from clearing the streets.

Jennifer Smith is an avid hunter. She regularly handles roadkill.

â??Even if you don't know how to use it, there's somebody nearby who does,â?? said Smith, a Buckley resident. â??I've hit a turkey, I've hit deer. There's really nothing you can do about it. Just because you hit them and the meatâ??s not any good, doesn't mean the rest of them is not any good. Every bit of the animal is worth something.â??

Smith said the animals can be used for food, jewelry, clothing, bait, and fishing lures.

â??It's sitting there being wasted, that's how I feel about it,â?? said Smith.

People like Smith who take home roadkill often have to wait for someone to respond.

â??You have to wait for them to come out, take your license, all your information, and then they write you out a tag. That's lengthy. Half of the time, by the time they get there it's two or three hours later because you're not a priority,â?? said Smith.

State Senator Darwin Booher agrees it should be quicker. That's why he penned Senate Bill 613, making it easier for people to take home animals killed in car accidents.

â??If I see that happen and I'm behind him, why can't I just call in to the number and tell them I'm picking it up?â?? questioned Booher. â??It might be six hours. By that time, the deer is no good. The deer is already rotting. You're not going to cut that thing open.â??

Under the new bill, a person could call either 911 or the DNR hotline to tell them theyâ??re taking an animal. They would have to say the date, place, and description of the roadkill they are taking.

â??That's the end of it. Nobody has to come see it or do anything,â?? explained Booher.

The Department of Natural Resources is on the fence regarding the bill, though.

â??How do we know the thing really got hit by a car, as opposed to somebody who might shoot it and get it into the car?â?? said Russ Mason, Chief of Wildlife Division. â??There are issues with poaching on things like turkeys, which are not considered small game. These are draw tags, highly valued species in the state. People will hit things like turkeys, like pheasants, like rabbits and pick them up.â??

Mason said the new bill could deprive the DNR of some of the information in their deer density trend analysis.

â??One of the best indicators of the deer population health in the state of Michigan is road kill,â?? said Mason.

The new measure could help keep the roads clear.

â??We don't have to leave these animals lay along the roads for weeks and weeks,â?? said Booher.

â??There'd be a lot less dead animals on the side of the road, I can guarantee you that,â?? said Smith.

Under the new bill, if you ran over a squirrel or another type of small game, all you'd have to do is write down the date and location and keep that record in your car.

The bill passed in the State Senate and is now in the Natural Resources Committee in the House.

Senator Booher hopes it will go to the House floor for a vote soon.