When I’m on a road trip it’s not unusual to see a random carcass on the side of the road. The first emotion I feel is a little sadness for the poor critter for not getting out of the way, then a few moments later I think of an old parody commercial for “The Roadkill Café". It was quite funny. 

There are actually a few Roadkill Café's in the USA. One in Arizona, another in Artemas, Pennsylvania but they don’t actually serve roadkill, do they? And that brings us to the question... 

Is it legal to eat roadkill in the state of Washington? 

David De Lossy

Up until 2016 the simple answer was no, according to the Washington Administrative Code, it is illegal to possess wildlife found dead. but. You could get a Roadkill salvage permit from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. You must adhere to annual training through department officials or game wardens and carry a license but, the animal cannot be used for personal consumption or use, as it remains the property of the state. The meat is then donated to charity like the Union Gospel Mission.  

As of 2016 things have changed. According to The Washinton Department of Fish and Wildlife,  

 “A rule adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2016 allows people to legally salvage deer and elk carcasses in the state. Nearly 20 other states have adopted similar rules. 

Michael J. Rivera/TSM
Michael J. Rivera/TSM

 The rule specifically applies to deer and elk killed by motor vehicles. Only elk – not deer – may be salvaged in Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum counties, because federal laws prohibit handling endangered Columbian white-tailed deer in southwest Washington. 

Anyone who takes possession of a deer or elk carcass must obtain a free, printable permit from WDFW within 24 hours. The permittee must then keep a hardcopy of the signed and dated salvage permit with the meat until all of the edible parts are consumed.” 

The new salvage rule also does not authorize trespassing on private property or ignoring highway-safety rules. 

Deer on the edge of the road just before vehicle

I drive 97A on the Columbia River every day going to and from work. In years past it was not unusual to see at least one deer carcass a week on that road between Entiat and Wenatchee. 

Bighorn Sheep Portrait in Montana
William Watson

Now we have the bighorn sheep that like to come down to the side of the road for a snack or to cross the highway to go down to the river, so I am always looking out for critters on my way to and from work. 

Watch out for Bambi, and if you do hit her, don’t forget to get your permit. 

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