New road kill legislation is signed into law

Lansing — Michigan lawmakers and hunting groups recently reworked the process for claiming game killed by vehicles, creating a three-tier system that ensures limited-quota species and other animals remain protected.

The measure, which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder in July, addresses three different categories of game hit by motor vehicles, and gives priority to the driver for salvaging the animal.

For deer, motorists can either obtain a salvage tag by contacting the DNR by phone or website to report the collision, or report the intent to keep the deer and basic information about the collision to 911 dispatchers.

For beavers, coyotes, foxes, mink, muskrats, opossums, raccoons, skunks, weasels, or other small game, motorists are required to prepare a written record of the incident and keep it on hand while in possession of the animal. The record must include the date, time, and location of the occurrence, the type of game killed, as well as whether or not a salvage tag was requested and the intended purpose for keeping the animal.

The document also must include the individual’s full name, date of birth, mailing address, telephone number, and driver’s license number.

Motorists who kill a bear must obtain a salvage tag directly from the DNR.

Animals that cannot be salvaged or possessed at any time include badgers, bobcats, brants, coots, crows, cub bears, ducks, elk, fishers, Florida gallinules, geese, martens, moose, otters, snipe, sora rails, spotted fawn deer, Virginia rails, wild turkeys, wolves, and woodcock.

“Prior to this law you had to have a tag from the department … or law enforcement and it was really just for deer,” said Trevor VanDyke, DNR legislative liaison. Sen. Darwin Booher, the bill’s sponsor, “thought the process was too long, and wanted to streamline it.”

“While fresh road kill like deer can be consumed, I introduced this bill at the request of several constituents who have asked to use road kill for various purposes, such as hunting, composting, or salvaging the hides,” Booher said in a statement. “This is about reducing regulations and saving taxpayer dollars.”

The initial legislation eliminated the need to acquire a salvage tag for many limited-harvest furbearer species, but several hunting groups, including Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Michigan Bear Hunters Association, and others raised concerns that poachers could use the law to take game out of season.

“It was a pretty open slate as far as how it was first introduced. Our big concern is we were kind of worried it would lead to an increase in poaching,” said Matt Evans, MUCC legislative affairs manager.

If a trapper pummeled an animal with a shovel, for example, it would be difficult for law enforcement officials to determine how exactly it died, he said.

“We’re always concerned with the bobcat population in the state … and we just saw this as a big red flag where unscrupulous people could use it as a loophole,” MBHA president Tim Dusterwinkle said.

DNR officials expressed similar concerns early in the legislative process.

While in the House Natural Resources Committee, officials with the DNR, MUCC, bear-hunting groups, and turkey-hunting interests discussed the potential poaching concerns with legislative aides for Booher and Rep. Andrea LaFontaine – the committee chairwoman – to ensure protections for limited-quota species.

MUCC, the Michigan DNR, and most other hunting groups were neutral on the legislation when the bill officially passed the full House in June.

The new law also requires the DNR to issue an annual report to the Legislature that includes the number of salvage tags issued for the preceding year, as well as the number of animals reported to the DNR or local law enforcement, if available.

The new salvage rules, which take effect Sept. 28, do not apply to motorists who intentionally kill game with their vehicles.

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