Capitol Alert

You kill it, you grill it? New California bill would let drivers legally eat roadkill

You’re driving down the road at night when, out of nowhere, a deer jumps in front of your car. It doesn’t survive. It’d be a shame to let all that meat go to waste, right?

That’s the thinking behind Senate Bill 395, sponsored by Sen. Bob J. Archuleta, D-Montebello.

That bill would amend state law, as well as the Fish and Game Code, to allow drivers of vehicles that fatally strike an animal to retroactively apply for a wildlife salvage permit, at no cost, within 24 hours of the collision. The bill also would allow non-drivers who come across roadkill to salvage the dead animal.

Existing law states that while accidentally killing an animal with a vehicle isn’t illegal, salvaging it is. Only state and local agencies may lawfully remove such animals. According to Archuleta’s bill text, each year “it is estimated that over 20,000 deer alone are hit by motor vehicles on California’s roadways.”

“This translates into hundreds of thousands of pounds of healthy meat that could be utilized to feed those in need,” SB 395’s bill text reads.

The bill specifically applies to deer, elk, antelope and wild pigs; it does not cover any animal protected by the California Endangered Species Act. If an animal is severely injured but not outright killed by the vehicle, this bill also would allow the salvager to kill it “in a safe, legal, and humane manner.”

If passed into law, SB 395 would go into effect in 2021.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.