Roadkill: It's what's for dinner in Illinois
The Prairie State passes a bill legalizing the use and consumption of furry mammals collected from state highways.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 20:08
DINNER IS SERVED: You probably won't find this exact species on Illinois roads, but the roadkill you do see in Illinois may now mean a 'free' meal. (Photo: donjd2/Flickr)
My husband and I are the type of people who would swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting a mouse as it sprinted for safety across the road. We have both annoyed other drivers as we blocked the rural highways to help turtles do the same, knowing they would be too slow to make it on their own. On the rare occasions that we've hurt an animal while driving, even my daughter has joined the cause and all three of us have sat in the car, weeping for the skunk or rabbit or raccoon that we have more than likely killed.
I can't help but wonder: what happens to all the carcasses that litter our roads?
Roadkill is often the butt of some seriously bad jokes — most of them including rednecks and dinner. One of my employees frequently shares the story of the time he hit a deer and was waiting for his family to come help him. Strangers stopped, not to ask if he was OK, but to see if he was going to keep the animal, or if they could take it. A bit creepy, and when he recounts his experience, you can usually hear banjos playing in the background. At that time it was also illegal.
But not anymore. In May 2011, the Illinois Senate passed a bill allowing permit-bearing citizens to scoop up roadkill for their own personal use (skinning, rendering, eating, etc.) as long as the beasts are fur-bearing mammals and are in season. Discussion around the topic pointed to the economy and how this will have a positive effect on everyone's wallet: free food/materials for those who need it, and time/budgetary savings for the state.
Which puts me back on topic. If roadkill isn't for dinner, where does it go?
Every state has its own rules or laws regarding the remains, although all states agree that these carcasses are not allowed in the landfill. State workers and/or contracted people typically load the roadkill into the back of trucks and haul them to a designated location, such as an open mass grave, compost bin or crematorium. In many areas larger animals, such as deer, elk or moose, are so sought after that local officials have a waiting list for those who want to pick up a fresh kill and haul it home. Many times organizations clean the animals, butcher them and either donate the meat to a charity or to families who desperately need their freezers filled with meat.
If a local wildlife center, such as a rescue facility or zoo, is nearby, it is often the recipient of roadkill.
While eating roadkill is definitely not a recycling effort I can handle, I'm glad to see Illinois easing its regulations and allowing others to clean up our roadways. For those who are willing to add these animals to their diet, the Internet is full of recipes and helpful tips for safe consumption.