Roadkill law yields pelts, food, applause
St. Maries’ Harwood pushing for Idaho law
CASEYVILLE, Ill. – In six years of trapping, one thing has become apparent to Cody Champ: His pursuit of animal pelts isn’t cheap, costing him $100 a week just for gas. So it’s little wonder the Illinois man welcomed a recent state law that allows him to get a few freebies, even if he needs a shovel and good gloves.
Among the hundreds of Illinois laws that took effect last year, the so-called “roadkill bill” got little attention despite being perhaps the quirkiest of all – allowing anyone with an Illinois furbearer license to salvage pelts or even food from the unfortunate fauna that prove no match for steel-belted radials.
Republican Rep. Norine Hammond pushed the measure at the behest of a retired state conservation officer who thought it was a waste to allow animals’ pelts to rot along the roadsides.
Hammond said it was an opportunity for some people to make a little money, and could benefit the state by letting citizens carry out the task once relegated to state highway crews.
The bill sailed through the General Assembly – twice, because lawmakers overrode a veto by Gov. Pat Quinn, who worried that motorists might suffer the same fate as the critters.
At least 14 states have laws related to roadkill, including those that let motorists keep animals they hit, though some pertain only to deer or bears, according to an informal survey for the Associated Press by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Idaho soon may join the list, after a three-year push by one legislator to allow roadside salvage of game animals. The state’s fish and game agency, which once objected to the idea, is awaiting legislative review of a rule that would allow it “under some circumstances.”
“You shouldn’t let that stuff go to waste,” said Rep. Dick Harwood, an Idaho Republican from St. Maries who said he took up the cause after a game warden threatened a neighbor with a $350 fine if he messed with a run-over bobcat near his home for a hide that could net $200. “To be able not to grab it was kind of stupid. Why let it go to waste?”
Since Illinois’ law took effect in October, Champ, a 26-year-old who lives in Dix, about 80 miles east of St. Louis, has skinned a mink and three raccoons he found dead while driving for his job with an electrical supply company.
Nobody stands to get rich off roadkill, Champ said, because animals favored by trappers – including coyotes, foxes, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, muskrats, beavers and mink – can’t always be used for pelts when they meet their end on a roadway.
What’s more, Champ said, the law simply legalizes what some people have been doing quietly for years.
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