EDITOR’S NOTE: This additional background about Washington’s roadkill laws arrived too late for inclusion in last week’s story. Answers are from Kelly McAllister, wildlife biologist with WSDOT’s Environmental Services Office

When and why did the state start collecting roadkill data?

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) started collecting the roadkill data in 1973. There weren’t that many participating maintenance offices back then but it was initiative that slowly gained momentum over time. The idea was to identify the places where the problem was the worst so that attempts could be made to reduce or eliminate the collisions. There were early attempts at using reflectors and a laser system associated with flashing warning lights, even a couple of orders of artificial wolf urine. None of these really worked out as a long-term solution.

What happens to roadkill after it’s scraped up?

Usually road-killed animals are taken to old borrow pits (gravel pits) where they are dumped and soil is periodically pushed over the remains to cover them up. There are two composting facilities in the state, in areas where roadkill is quite high.

Why is it illegal in Washington to eat roadkill?

Well, technically, the law says it’s illegal to possess wildlife found dead. To my mind, this is largely a law that closes a loophole whereby someone who has illegally killed an animal can say, “Oh, I didn’t kill this animal. I found it lying dead by the road.” For nefarious individuals this story line would get them around having to buy a hunting license and tag and, potentially, abiding by seasons and restrictions on killing doe deer and cow elk, etc. There may be other good reasons, like protecting the public from eating potentially spoiled meat but I think the legal issue is the primary reason for the law.

In addition, Washington state law often attempts to mirror what’s in federal law. I’m not real clear on why we do that but it apparently makes arrests and citations by state enforcement personnel possible when a federal enforcement officer is not around, something like that. The possession of migratory birds and their parts has been illegal since about 1916 when the treaty with Canada was signed. Washington’s law against possession of wildlife found dead includes possession of parts of wildlife like feathers. So, it extends protection to dead birds and parts of birds like talons and feathers, which aren’t covered by the classification of birds as protected wildlife, a law that only protects living birds. It’s possible that the law pertaining to possession of wildlife found dead was viewed as a means to get coverage for elements of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act that weren’t covered under the existing state law at the time.

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