A bear for your front end damageRep. Ann Hraychuck – a former Polk County sheriff from Balsam Lake – has introduced an excellent piece of legislation she calls the “Road Kill Equity Bill.”
By: By Mike Nichols, Superior Telegram
Rep. Ann Hraychuck – a former Polk County sheriff from Balsam Lake – has introduced an excellent piece of legislation she calls the “Road Kill Equity Bill.”
The impetus for the bill, Hraychuck told me, comes from the folks at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – who have gotten a little tired, I guess, of having to deal with inert and bloodied carcasses.
(Dead ones, I mean – not just the one that belongs to our lame-duck governor.)
The bill is also, I suspect, a natural response to that basic question about animal activity that many a Wisconsinite has asked his buddy after a few pops at the local tavern.
Does a bear sit in the woods?
The answer, I now realize, is no. A bear, like a chicken, crosses the road. In fact, each year in this state, about 150 bears cross the road at exactly the wrong time and get hit.
“A bear, it is like hitting a really large pig,” said Dennis Hughes, chief of the safety program section of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. It can take out your radiator.
Hitting a wild turkey, he said, can be sort of “like hitting a bowling ball.”
This stuff happens all the time. Between 20,000 and 40,000 deer alone are turned into road kill every year in Wisconsin. People don’t report hitting a raccoon or a squirrel or a rabbit, of course. In 2008 alone, though, at least 635 animals other than deer – everything from cows to turkeys to pigs to bears – caused serious accidents, according to the DOT. Currently, drivers aren’t entitled to the bodies of any of them other than a deer (so long as you have a tag).
This means that lots of Wisconsinites are currently running into a big bear, suffering several thousand dollars damage (and maybe a heart attack as well) and are then being informed that the bear carcass belongs to the state. The poor DNR warden has to tell the poor driver that, yes, the driver can perhaps have the poor bear – but only if the driver is willing to pay for it.
If the new bill passes, drivers who accidentally kill bears and wild turkeys will now get to keep them so long as they get a tag too, which is free. Basically, it’s a fairness issue for someone whose front end was damaged.
The change will be a good thing for both drivers and local highway departments that won’t have to dispose of turkeys and bears any longer – not to mention other deceased critters.
The new law, if it passes, will not allow you to take a dead fisher or otter or bobcat off a road, according to DNR warden Tom Van Haren. But if you accidentally hit, say, a raccoon or pheasant during the open season and if you have the proper license or permit, it’s yours. If you don’t want to claim your kill, moreover, anybody else with the proper license or permit or tag can take it and eat it instead.
Running something over intentionally would still be illegal, and just wrong. You still won’t be able to pick road kill up off the road outside the season in which it is legal to hunt the live version. And you still won’t be able to take, say, a pig or a cow – not unless you want a farmer to turn you into road kill yourself.
But if a turkey or a pheasant or a bear is lying there after putting a dent in your hood – and you’re hungry – you will often be able to have it for dinner. Basically, you accidently kill it, you mount it or skin it or maybe even eat it. The new law would make it that simple.
Just don’t tell PETA.
Contact Mike Nichols at MRNichols@wi.rr.com