California: Salvaging Game Meat from Road Kill Still Illegal in California

Contact: Aoibheann Cline, Western States Coordinator

The Wildlife Traffic Safety Act (SB 395) passed out of the California Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor at the end of the 2019 session. SB 395 gained the nickname “the Roadkill Bill” because it would allow for the salvage of wild game meat from deer, antelope, elk and wild pig following an accidental vehicle collision on a California roadway. The law went into effect on January 1, 2020 leading to some confusion for Californians with some asking, “Since the law went into effect January 1, can I harvest the backstraps from a deer on the side of the road?” Not yet.

Despite passage of the Wildlife Traffic Safety Act, it is still illegal to collect, possess or transport roadkill animals, and violators are subject to citation under California law. Under current law, only authorized state or local agencies have [LG1] jurisdiction over the road or highway to remove an accidental take from the roadway. The Wildlife Traffic Safety Act only authorized the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to establish a pilot program for the issuance of wildlife salvage permits through a “user-friendly and cell-phone-friendly” web-based program to be developed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Department). The program must be developed by January 1, 2022 and implemented within six months of its development.

The wildlife salvage permits will collect data that will be instrumental in protecting wildlife and human safety. The data and information collected and compiled under the Wildlife Traffic Safety Act will assist the Department in their efforts to more accurately report on the number and location of wildlife-vehicle collisions. This data can be used to better identify prevention strategies such as wildlife traffic safety crossings along critical migration corridors to reduce collision incidents.

In addition, it is estimated that tens of thousands of pounds of healthy, wild, big game meat is currently wasted each year following wildlife-vehicle collisions. Nearly 20,000 deer alone are hit by vehicles on California’s roadways and the ability for Californians to harvest this meat potentially translates to hundreds of thousands of pounds of healthy, organic meat that can be used to feed families at home, or those in need, through established game-meat donation programs. 

Californians are not the only ones who have permitted the harvesting of roadkill for food, however the State of California is seeking to simplify the reporting requirements and promote citizen science through public participation. There are a list of other states that permit with harvest of roadkill with some restrictions.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) supported the passage of SB 395 through the duration of the legislative process through coalition support letter’s in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee; Senate Appropriations Committee; Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife Committee; Assembly Appropriations Committee; and following passage of the bill from the legislature requesting a signature from the Governor.

CSF will continue to monitor the implementation of the Wildlife Traffic Safety Act and provide updates on the development and implementation of this important bill.

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