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What happens to roadkill? Residents can call to claim it

A deer lies in the road after being hit by a car near Freeport, Maine. In Pennsylvania, residents who see roadkill should call either the Pennsylvania Game Commission or PennDOT, depending on jurisdiction.

Have you ever seen a roadkill deer on the side of a road and wonder what becomes of the animal’s remains?

With a quick call to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, that deer could go from the side of the road straight to your dinner table.

Regional game commission offices across the state handle roadkill deer in their jurisdiction.

When someone calls in a dead deer, a game warden is dispatched to pick up the body and dispose of it. However, the game commission can also issue a permit to state residents that allows them to claim the deer’s body for their own use.

As long as the animal was killed within 24 hours, all one would have to do is call the game commission and ask.

Once claimed, the body is typically used for meat, said regional game warden Ethan Beale. People can also claim the antlers for a fee, at $10 per point.

Beale said bodies do not get claimed often, but it happens from time to time.

“Anybody who feels comfortable with it can call in and claim it,” Beale said. “I think there’s a general lack of awareness that you can do that.”

Claiming roadkill is a simple process, according to Beale. Simply call the regional game commission office, provide some basic information and the body will be handed over to the caller. Beale said the game commission leaves it up to the individual to determine if the deer’s body is suitable for consumption.

“All the edible parts are free,” Beale said. “It’s completely up to what they’re comfortable with.”

Disposing of bodies

If not claimed, game wardens such as Beale are responsible for disposing of the bodies themselves. Beale, who covers the northern tier of Butler County, said people call in roadkill and give its general location, and then he will travel to that area to look for it.

About 75% of the time, the body is easily visible on the side of the road, according to Beale, so all he has to do is load it into the back of his truck and travel to the nearest state-owned land to dispose of it.

“We want to move it the shortest distance possible,” Beale said. “There are potentially diseases that can be scattered through ... bodily fluids.”

Sometimes, the deer will only be injured, not dead. On those occasions, Beale needs the specific location of the deer so he can find it and handle it accordingly.

Beale said the game commission mainly handles fresh bodies. The longer a body sits on the side of a road, the more likely it is that scavengers will get to it.

“A deer could be there for less than a day before scavengers could drag it into the woods,” Beale said. “If it starts to decompose, crows and vultures get to it.”

Any roadkill smaller than a deer also is likely to be dealt with by other animals.

“You could see a groundhog hit one day and a crow, raven or turkey vulture can physically take it away,” Beale said.

The game commission is responsible for the rural and local roads in the county, while any state roads or highways fall under the jurisdiction of PennDOT.

Process similar

PennDOT spokeswoman Tina Gibbs said their process is similar to the game commission’s.

Individuals can report roadkill either by calling their local PennDOT office with the body’s address or general location.

Unlike the game commission, however, PennDOT uses vendors to dispose of the bodies. When a report comes in, PennDOT will alert its vendor, Porter Mowing Service in Butler County, and they will collect and dispose of the body.

The Northwest Region office for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which covers 10 counties, including Butler, can be reached at 814-432-3187.

PennDOT’s District 10 office, which covers Butler, Armstrong, Clarion, Indiana and Jefferson counties, can be reached at 724-357-2800.

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