By Howard Meyerson
If Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, gets his way, it will be easier to have roadkill for supper in Michigan. Boorher and Sen John Pappageorge, R-Troy, introduced legislation that would allow motorists and others to take dead animals off the highway without first getting a required permit from the DNR.
“I am a hunter and have always been. As I drive back and forth to Lansing I see a number of deer on the side of the road that are going to rot. No one picks them up or uses them,” Booher said. “If you get 25 percent of them off the road, that’s an improvement.”
The impetus for the bill, SB 613, came from Booher’s constituents who approached him about wanting to use road-killed deer as bait when hunting predators like coyotes. State regulations currently do not allow the use of deer as bait.
State wildlife officials say there is little need for the bill and that a regulation change to allow the use of deer for bait is expected to get approval by the Natural Resources Commission in January.
“It (the legislation) is unnecessary,” said Russ Mason, the DNR’s wildlife chief. “There is a wildlife order before the commission to expand allowable uses. People would still need to get a permit, but the use of deer for baiting would be allowed.
“You can get a permit from anyone, county law enforcement or conservation officer. It’s not like you have to sit on the side of the road and wait for a state police officer.”
But that process can still take time, according to Booher, after which, the meat may have spoiled.
“It’s just common sense,” Booher said. “I want to make it easier for people to take the animals and use it whether for food or hide or compost and bait and have less government involvement. This takes the burden off local agencies to keep track of it.”
The legislation gives motorists first dibs on the game animals they hit and kill. But anyone would be allowed to take a dead roadside game animal, other than birds, provided they keep a written record of the incident.
That record would specify the date and location where it was found, whether a DNR salvage tag was requested, and the name, date of birth, mailing address and phone number of the person taking the animal. It would have to be kept until a salvage permit was issued, or until the dead animal was consumed or disposed of. The only exception would be if the animal was to be taken to a taxidermist. A DNR salvage permit would still be required first.
DNR Law enforcement officials say they prefer to require a permit before someone picks up a roadkilled deer or bear. Possessing one now without a permit is a misdemeanor. Requiring the permit provides a way to track how many are taken. It also helps maintain clarity in certain enforcement scenarios – for instance, if someone poached a deer and claimed they found dead on the side of the road.
“Right now you can stop and pick up a road killed animal during the hunting season,” said Dean Molnar, DNR assistant law chief. “That is a permitless process already if someone is properly licensed and it is during the season. You can stop and pick up a partridge and include it as part of your bag limit. Right now the only permit needed is for deer or bear.”
Booher’s bill would allow anyone to take roadkill home at any time of year. Only birds are excluded. The bill was referred to the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee. A hearing is not expected before late January at the earliest.
© 2013 Howard Meyerson
This story appears in Michigan Outdoor News