Lawmaker drafts bill to help Utahns keep and eat roadkill
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A Utah lawmaker thinks that killing a big-game animal with your vehicle should make it your property — antlers and all.

As first reported by the Provo Daily Herald, Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, is drafting a bill for the 2014 General Session that would entitle drivers to keep their roadkill. Utah law currently allows roadkill consumption, but to get the venison into your Crock-Pot, it first must be "donated" to you at the discretion of a Division of Wildlife Resources officer.

"If you hit a game animal with your car, and you kill the game animal, you can't take the game animal," Pitcher said. "What the bill does, it just puts it into law that as soon as you hit the animal, at that point police issue you a tag."

There's a sticking point: Antlers. DWR's written policies forbid donation of a carcass' antlers. Pitcher says he was told by DWR — which either saws them off or removes larger antlers at the skull plate for later sale at auction — that they worry hunters would use the roadkill law to illegally obtain trophy racks.

But Pitcher says that under his proposal, an investigating officer would have to ensure that the vehicle — not a bullet or arrow — had killed the animal, and, "Who wants to risk the damage to a twenty, thirty thousand dollar automobile to kill an animal? Plus, you take your life into your hands doing that."

As for eating roadkill, Division of Wildlife Resources spokesman Phil Douglass says that due to internal hemorrhaging and bruising, "the animals are usually in very poor condition. In most circumstances, they are not suitable for consumption."

DWR Lt. Scott Davis said that in the '70s, the agency was sued because a bone became lodged in the throat of a woman who ate a roadkill deer, and ever since they've included a warning on the wildlife disposal receipt that's awarded with a donation.

Every roadkill receipt crosses his desk, Davis said, and they are infrequent. More often, people want big game roadkill for the antlers. Davis said DWR sometimes gets reports of carcasses on the side of the road, and when they arrive, "the deer is gone or antlers are taken off."

Pitcher said his measure is simply intended to clear up confusion and address concerns of constituents, like one woman who has business in both in Rich and Weber counties and reports that the mountain pass is riddled with needlessly decomposing meat. Current DWR guidelines lack definition, Pitcher says, and he appears to be right. DWR Sgt. Mitch Lane believes there is an unwritten policy that the drivers who hit the animals should rarely be donated the carcasses — in order to deter purposeful collisions — but says that's nowhere on the books.

But the Ogden lawmaker concedes that he's unsure how the tag system would work. Were it treated the same as a hunting tag, would a permit to keep a roadkill bull elk, for instance, fill your tag for the year — or even longer, given the scarcity of tags?

"I'm negotiable," Pitcher said. "If you hit a bull elk, that's a legitimate tag situation. That's as good to me as shooting one."

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper