I get so many questions…

Is it safe to do what you do?

How do you know what to look for?

‘WHY’ do you do what you do?

There are others of course, so I have compiled a page dedicated to the most ‘frequently asked questions’ copied and pasted from various interviews and emails.  I hope you find them useful, informative, or just plain entertaining!

Just scroll down to find one that best fits your curiosity.

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(DISCLAIMER… Before I start I have to say that I hold NO responsibility for anyone getting sick eating roadkill.  I offer my experiences and knowledge freely, I do not make myself accountable for anyone else.  YOU make a choice, YOU take responsibility.  Thank you. )

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These questions were asked by writer and journalist Louise Tilloston, who was doing an article on ‘Extreme Frugality’.

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Q.1 – Roadkill.  How we do we know it is still fresh? 

Is it still fresh?

Is it still fresh?

Most people think of dirty pancake looking flat red mush  – what I call “Tarmac Jam” – when they think of roadkill and this is far from the truth.  But, how do you really know how fresh it is?

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  • If you saw the accident happen then you know it is definitely fresh.  If you didn’t, only pick up those that have ‘bounced’ from being hit cleanly once, preferably from the side of the road.

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  • Avoid animals that have been badly damaged or ruptured internally.  Check the animal carefully before stuffing it in the boot of the car (gloves are recommended and a plastic bag or tarp).

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  • Good basic indicators of optimal freshness are:
  1. Clear eyes & both eyes are still there.  Birds peck the eyes soon after death or first thing in the morning.
  2. Living & active fleas – fleas will only live on a living body.
  3. Fresh, red un-clotted blood – if any, but a bloody nose is common.
  4. Fur that doesn’t come loose when you pull it – alopecia is a sure sign of age or disease.
  5. Smell – if it smells revolting don’t pick it up.

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  • Rigor mortis sets in within a few hours, then the body will relax again maybe days later, so if it is stiff it could be still fresh, but keep in mind the previous tips when judging time of death.

The rate at which Rigor Mortis sets in will depend on several factors such as the animals physique, cause of death and the climate.  Different sources give different figures, but very broadly and in ‘average’ circumstances with roadkill it begins from 1/2 hr (bird) – 24 hrs (deer) it becomes complete in about 12 hours or more.  After about 72 hours, the body relaxes again, this time as a result of decomposition. This is known as resolution of rigor.  The stiffness in the muscle tissues begins to decrease owing to the enzymatic breakdown of collagen that hold muscle fibres together. This phenomenon is also referred to as Aging of meat. This aging effect produces meats that are more tender and palatable, hence the ‘hanging of game’!

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  • The skin will move much more freely across the muscles if the carcass is fresh.

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  • Listen to your nose… if it smells rotten, don’t take it.  If it smells ok on the outside, but when you open it up it smells very iffy don’t eat it.  Mild stomach gas is usually ok and a bit of poop may be normal too, so use your instincts on this until experience tells you otherwise.

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  • Cold climates are better for freshness; nature makes a great fridge sometimes.  Be careful in hot weather – bugs find the dead quickly.  Do do not pick anything up with maggots or eggs all over it.

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  •  Obviously, don’t pick up something that’s been run over a couple of times!!

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  • It is also essential to research the kinds of diseases certain wild animals can catch or carry and what signs to look for.

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  • Cooking the animal at boiling point thoroughly will kill practically all nasties!  That includes Toxoplasmosis,  Myxomatosis and even Rabies!!  But do your homework!

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As you can see, you need to know what you’re doing, but it’s not rocket science!!  If in doubt, ask someone else’s advice who knows what they are doing.

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Q.2 – Should you try it?

If you can stomach the thought of eating roadkill, and are confident you can pick out the animals safe for consumption, then I’d urge you to give it a try. If you’ve ever eaten pheasant, hare or rabbit in a restaurant and almost broken your teeth on the buckshot, you’d probably relish the chance to eat the gamey goodness without the fear of fillings afterwards!

Eating roadkill is definitely healthier than meat laden with antibiotics, hormones, and growth stimulants, as most supermarket meat is today. Road traffic casualties never knew what hit ‘em – if you pardon the pun!  They did not experience what it was like to be factory farmed, castrated, de-horned, or de-beaked without anaesthetics, they did not suffer the traumatic and miserable experience of being transported long distances in a crowded truck, and did not hear the screams and smell the fear of the animals ahead of them on the slaughter line.  Ethically, I know what I would rather eat!

Wild food foraging is about more to do with being in tune with nature and our bodies.  Some of its benefits are that it uses less packaging, less chemicals, less food miles and contains less pollution; it fosters biodiversity; our bodies ‘understand’ these natural foods, therefore cancer and other physical ailments are minimized because our immune systems are boosted naturally.

To view the article online click here.

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These Questions and Answers were taken from an interview with Dr. Daniel Allen

To see the blog in relation to this follow this link

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Q.3 –  What was it that made roadkill initially appealing as a source of food?

I remember long ago my father preparing game  in the kitchen, so I wasn’t fazed by seeing dead animals and was used to eating rabbits and pheasants from an early age. I was fascinated by the butchering process and tried to make things from the bit of fur, feet and feathers that were left over (my Dad found it amusing, but my Mum thought it was dirty, lol).

For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed collecting bits of nature and turning them into something else.  As a young adult and an artist who enjoys working with organic and animal materials, I would stop and inspect dead things at the side of the road (UK and abroad) to see if I could learn something about the animal and to see if I could salvage anything… often this is the closest you can get to truly wild animals.  The encounters were always a mix of sadness and fascination.  When an animal was only recently killed, I was curious about eating it, as it seemed a shame not to waste it, however, popular ‘roadkill’ taboo and worry about disease prevented me from doing so.

Eight years ago I saw the car driving in front of me hit a pheasant.  It bounced to the side of the road.  I stopped to pick it up.  “Why couldn’t I eat this?”, I thought.  It was exactly the same bird you would buy in a country butchers, but minus the lead shot! Butchers tend to ‘hang’ pheasants for about a week, so this was definitely fresher than those.  It was perfectly intact so I took it home, and prepared and ate it.  It was delicious and I derived a huge amount of pride and satisfaction from what I had done.  I was living in the country, but still felt like a ‘townie, and this simple act made me feel more in tune with where I was living.  I felt more akin with my environment.  And it was a free meal! Bonus!

Five years ago I began to learn and practice taxidermy using roadkill.  I was in contact with lots of dead animals and the same question kept popping up – why can’t I eat this?  In most cases the meat was inedible, or my lack of knowledge about the animal and any diseases it may carry prevented me from eating it.  Again, it seemed like such a waste!  This was an organic, free-range, pesticide-free, growth hormone-free and cruelty-free piece of meat – this is better than what you would buy in a supermarket!!  It was also something I hadn’t tried before and it had the element of the ‘exotic’.  I have always had an adventurous culinary curiosity and tried all sorts of street food in far-flung places around the world.

So I educated myself and began eating roadkill on a regular basis.

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Q.4 –  What is your opinion of pre-packaged meat?

When I see a tray of pre-packaged meat I often wonder how the animal had been fed, looked after, respected and finally slaughtered.  Did the animal suffer?  What has been pumped into it?  Is it full of antibiotics and growth hormones?  What food had it been eating?  Do I want this piece of meat in my body?

If I could afford it, I would only buy organic meat, always.  Ideally I would prefer to eat only animals that I had reared, slaughtered and prepared myself, and this is my long-term goal.  Unfortunately, I still have to rely on shops and supermarkets, and occasionally I buy the odd piece of meat that isn’t organic, especially if it looks very good and has been reduced heavily in price – better to eat it than see it go into the landfill.  It seems such a waste of a life.

I would not however buy ‘cheap’ anaemic looking pieces of flesh that have obviously been pumped full of water and synthetic additives to hide the fact that it was raised in battery conditions.

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Q.5 –  Have you ever found injured animals and had to dispatch them?

Occasionally I have had to do this with rabbits and pheasants at the side of the road, but luckily not very often.  I do not like to see animals suffer.  If I can not save its life, I will dispatch it and it always find it sad. I find it hypocritical if I am not able to do this, when I am more than willing to eat meat.  Your average carnivorous human would eat far less meat if they had to participate in the entire process from beginning to end, and that isn’t a bad thing, in my opinion, environmentally and ethically.

Just two days ago my partner found an injured owl.  It had a broken wing.  We called around and took it to a local vet.  They couldn’t save its wing, so had to put it down.  It was a huge shame and a beautiful bird.  We really wanted to save it.  We asked if we could have the bird for taxidermy reasons, but the vet said no.  The bird went to be incinerated.  What a waste!  We questioned if what we had done was the right thing.  We could have quickly and respectfully dispatched the bird ourselves had we known that the wing was not repairable and then we could have eaten it, and recycled the rest of it. Instead it was injected by humans with poisons in an artificially lit bright room.  It must have been afraid.

In most States in the USA, it is illegal to take roadkill, and often, by the time it is collected by the authorities, the meat is unfit for human consumption – What sort of ridiculous laws do we have in the West that allows good meat to go to waste, when there are so many undernourished people in our own countries, let alone in poorer countries?

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Q.6 –  What have you eaten, and is there any meat you wouldn’t eat?

I have eaten all meat that has been put before me that is fit for human consumption (Japan and the Far East in general is a great place to try out new and exotic foods and if the locals eat it, then I will.)  I will try most animals I have found dead if I am confident that it wouldn’t poison me.  (My only close shave was eating a dead penguin in Patagonia).  I travel extensively and to remote places – culinary experimentation is a passion of mine.  I have eaten many kinds of insects.  I like different textures and flavours.  I would not kill-to-eat someone’s domestic pet, but have probably been served it without my knowledge in various countries and accepted it graciously.  However, I would eat anything in a survival situation – including your grandma!  Lol.  I do not, and can not, eat Marmite though.

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Q.7 – Can you describe a normal days foraging?

Most finds are opportunistic, especially when they are animal.  I always have plastic bags, rubber gloves, a sharp knife or my ‘skinning kit’ in the back of the vehicle.  The places where certain fish, crustaceans, molluscs, plants or fungi are to be found, are often recommended by a friend or similar enthusiast. More often than not, these are closely guarded secrets!  On foraging trips such as these, I go deliberately and thoughtfully armed with what tools I need to collect and contain what I hope to find.  If  I were to plan a day’s hike that included opportunistic wild food foraging, I would first pick a scenic and interesting spot, armed with a plastic and paper bag (paper for fungi), a sharp knife, gloves, my mini pocket foraging books and a camera.  If my partner is with me and carrying a big backpack we will take the tent equipment, cooking apparatus and sleep and dine al-fresco.

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Q.8 –  Why not buy meat from a supermarket, or raise your own livestock?

As I mentioned before….

Unfortunately, at this time I cannot avoid having to shop at the supermarket and local farm shops and butchers, so do buy the occasional and preferably organic item from there.  I prefer not to encourage factory farming so I promote local farm shops and friends who grow their own to sell or barter.

Our long-term goal, and one we are actively researching, is to purchase a large plot of land, probably not in this country.  We plan to develop our own organic garden and vegetable patch and breed, raise, butcher and process our own livestock.  We plan to produce our own self sustainable energy, and be totally ‘off-grid’.  We hope to include like-minded people and those who want to learn all about self sustainability and living simply with nature.

On a political note:

Apart from this country’s weather, we don’t want to settle in this country as Central and Local Government clearly do not want to encourage this lifestyle, as they would not be able to take their 30-50% fee (in taxes) on our efforts – to fund their greedy, environmentally unfriendly and dangerous schemes of imperialism and manipulation and exploitation of us wage slaves and poorer countries.  (ooops, lol, bit of a rant there!!)   Most people who run our country, be they politicians or captains of industry are morally corrupt or just plain ignorant of their actions that are leading to the destruction of our planet and unnecessary suffering of millions of people around the world. I do not wish to support such people and so living off-grid in a country that will allow this lifestyle is our goal – and we wish to share this and support others around the world in similar ventures.

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Q.9 – What is your favourite roadkill recipe? 

I do not have a favourite as such; I love to experiment all the time.  If I were to choose a versatile dish that could accommodate any kind of meat no matter how small then it would have to be, ‘Chinese/ Japanese Dumplings’, ‘Terrine’ or a ‘Pate’.

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Q.10 – When did you first use roadkill in your art, and why?

I first used roadkill bird feathers to make a brooch when I was a child; I found them beautiful and wanted to recycle them. I felt an almost spiritual connection with that animal.  Later in life I discovered what shamanism and animism meant, so began to understand why I had always felt this way.

After a trip to Australia in 2001 I made a necklace from roadkill kangaroo claws.  Roadkill was all over the place in the outback – I had my partner at the time stop at the side of the road every time I saw a bleached white skeleton.  He thought I was mad sawing off the claws – he didn’t understand my art or curiosity with death.  I saw a rare resource and an opportunity to create something beautiful out of something that had passed away and was decomposing.  I see beauty in the whole cycle of life.  Death is so taboo in many societies and the fear of death makes it ugly.  I strongly disagree.  It can be a beautiful transformation, like the changing of the seasons.

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Q.11 – How does the public generally respond to your art?

Until recently I owned an art gallery in Harrogate that specialized in authentic Tribal artefacts and ethnographic curiosities.  The response from the public was mixed.  A lot of people didn’t understand it, but many had the nerve to come in and browse and ask questions.  They were snared by the stories of these beautiful and sometimes eerie looking objects and fetishes, which were anthropologically fascinating, tapping into the myth and magic of other cultures in remote far away places.  Kids especially loved it, and I went to schools with an armful of artefacts and taught a kind of ‘anthropology for kids’.  Afterwards, we would make masks and other tribal objects.

The gallery was a success, but unfortunately my relationship with my partner and co-owner was not and it closed down in 2007.

Whenever I have a studio to work from, I make sure that at times it is open to anyone curious enough to question what I do.  My last studio was in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.  Once every 2 months, me and the other artists in the building had an ‘Open Studio’ evening for members of the public.  My studio room (which I practically lived in) was quite different to everyone else’s and very weird to the uninitiated.  The walls were covered in old tribal masks and animal skins, pictures of female gladiators and goddesses, and scarified and tattooed faces.  I had a glass case full of interesting tribal jewelry from all over the world and an extensive specialized library.  There were taxidermy projects in progress on the tables and I was more than happy to explain and chat about anything they saw.

After meeting me and listening to my stories about how and why I think the way I do, they left my studio with a deeper respect for, and understanding of, the objects I transform

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These question & Answers were taken from an interview with http://www.takepart.com/article/2011/12/28/true-story-roadkill-cook

The True Story of the Roadkill Cook

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Yes, she eats animals killed by cars, but extreme forager Alison Brierley says her lifestyle is healthy—and good for the planet.
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Q.12 – TakePart: We have to know—how did you start eating roadkill?

Alison Brierley: I first ate a piece of roadkill when a car in front hit it about eight years ago on the way home from work. It just bounced off the car and it landed. I thought, “I’m going to check that.” When I went out, it was dead, luckily. I just thought, “I’m going to eat it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s exactly the same bird you’d get at the butcher’s minus all the lead shot.” So I took it home, prepared it, and it was fantastic. Then five years ago I started eating roadkill regularly and experimenting more and learning more of the taxidermy side of things for my artwork.

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Q.13 – TakePart: And what was that first animal?

Alison Brierley: A pheasant.

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Q.14 – TakePart: Who taught you to cook?

Alison Brierley: The cooking side of things I’ve just learned as I’ve gone along. As I’ve grown up I’ve really been interested in food and because I’m a meat eater I think it’s my responsibility to actually be acquainted with the animal I’m eating, which means butchering it and learning from scratch, instead of finding some sanitized package on the supermarket shelf already done for me.

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Q.15 – TakePart: Was there something that prompted you to start eating roadkill regularly?

Alison Brierley: Because I was using more animals in my artwork, I was handling a lot of meat, and what was going through my mind was, “Why can’t I eat this?” So when something was really fresh I actually decided to eat it. I learned about the animal first, like any diseases that it might carry. I got in touch with people who used to eat it themselves, asked them their opinions, and just gathered as much knowledge as I could before I actually started eating the roadkill. Before then, I just used to dispose of the carcasses to nature and keep the skins and feathers and whatever I was using [for my art], but now I try to go tip to tail. I try to eat and use everything.

Alison uses roadkill in her art too. Here, squirrel testicle earrings custom made for a bride.
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Q.16 – TakePart: What kind of roadkill have you eaten so far?

Alison Brierley: Staple roadkill in the U.K. are rabbits, pheasants, hares, deer, squirrels. Foxes, badgers, those kinds of things, I’ve processed and worked with, but their meat has never been in great enough condition to eat, which was a shame. Badgers especially can carry bovine TB, so you have to be very careful.  Occasionally, although illegal, farmers kill badgers with poisons and leave them at the side of the road to look like roadkill.

(Abroad is much trickier, due to different climates, but when it is cool and dry deer, kangaroo, rhea and penguin have been firm favourites!)

Q.17 – TakePart: You mention that you got advice from people who’ve eaten these animals themselves. Is there a community of people who eat roadkill?

Alison Brierley: There’s not quite a community. It’s still quite a quirky, eccentric thing to do because we’ve just been so socially conditioned that it’s dirty food. When people think of roadkill, they instantly think of this flat thing on the road that’s been run over 10 times by a tractor or something and that is totally inedible. Then people realize, “Hang on, what she’s preparing looks like it’s just gone to sleep—there’s hardly any injury on it whatsoever.” That’s the kind of roadkill that you look for, stuff that hasn’t been ruptured.

As far as friends go, we do have a community of people who love to go camping and be outdoors in nature, and that’s where you tend to skill share and find out a lot about country ways and cookery, like cooking whole pigs in earth ovens.

(Just recently I took part in a programme filmed by Beyond Productions’.  I gathered an elite group of foragers, hunters and craftsmen and women, all familiar with roadkill in one form or another.  The list of Roadkill Collaborators id here

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Q.17 – TakePart: I heard that you’re a nomad, is that true?

Alison Brierley: Me and my partner are both nomadic. We’ve been traveling for a long time. The last time I had a permanent home was five years ago. I owned an art gallery in Harrogate. It was very normal, apart from that it was all to do with tribal art. Me and my partner are both avid backpackers, so we do a lot of traveling into remote places like the Amazon and Papua New Guinea. We stay with tribes. I’ve got a keen interest in anthropology and I just love different cultures and how they cook and what they eat and their relationship to their food as well.

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Q.18 – TakePart: Is that how your interest in foraging, recycling and ecology grew?

Alison Brierley: Yeah. I think when you’re traveling and you don’t have a lot of possessions and you’re not surrounded by bills and house and possessions and clutter, you have more of a chance to interact with the environment. So we’ve decided to stay nomadic until we find a piece of land where we actually want to put down roots and build an eco-home and start a small community of our own, where like-minded people can come and skill share and learn off the land. That’s the plan—to be totally off-grid and eco.

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Q.19 – TakePart: Right now are you staying with friends or camping?

Alison Brierley: We have a motorhome, so we actually live in our motorhome and we drive it wherever we like. If we don’t like the view one morning, we can change it. It’s quite nice. When we visit friends, we take our house with us. We love it. It’s a great lifestyle. It suits us very, very much. Although, we will be renting in a beautiful little village up on the moors in Yorkshire to have a baby and nest-build for a little while.

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Q.20 – TakePart: What’s your favorite roadkill to cook?

Alison Brierley: I love eating hare. Hare is very special to me. Pheasant is a staple food. We eat lots of pheasants and lots of rabbits in springtime [laughing]. There are sort of seasons for different types of roadkill, and my fellow loves venison. We actually both love venison because you can get a huge amount of meat off one animal and it lasts for ages, but my favourite delicacy is the really weird stuff, like insects and the stuff you get in foreign countries that nobody else dares to try. I like to shock myself.

Q.21 – TakePart: What’s the most shocking insect you’ve eaten?

Alison Brierley: A live bamboo worm. It popped in my mouth and it was just like a big sack of milk, and that kind of freaked me out. But it didn’t taste bad at all.

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Q.22 – TakePart: What’s your least favorite food?

Alison Brierley: There’s only one thing I really dislike. I can eat anything apart from Marmite. I hate Marmite, and Vegemite as well. I keep trying it, thinking “This is the only thing I don’t like, so I’m going to keep trying it.” And I still really don’t like it.

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Last but not least…

Q.23 – What is the law on taking roadkill?

Finally, a few quick notes about the law…. but I am no expert, so check yourself if you really need to know specifics.  Generally, the UK is pretty good at allowing folk to dine from the road.

I would be wary of eating badger from the road at the moment…. farmers who view protected badgers as pests are putting poisoned animals by the roadside to make them ‘look’ like roadkill… so be warned.  I am not touching badgers for a while.

“The ownership of wild game is determined by where it dies and not who bred it or released it. For example, a pheasant killed on a public road cannot be claimed by anyone, nor can anyone be prosecuted for claiming it. The rumour about picking up a bird that has been killed by the car in front was an explanation as to how to kill a pheasant and not be charged with trespass in pursuit of game. As the bird died in a public place a charge of trespass cannot be brought to bare”.

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(The following is borrowed from a thread on a forum about the roadkill law in the UK which I think is really useful)

“Wild animals aren’t classified as ‘owned’ unless they’re specifically being farmed, in which case they need to be on land secured by fencing, so you’d not be likely to hit them.

However, you have a limited sense of ‘ownership’ to wild animals while they happen to be on your land – thus if you wander onto an estate and kill one, that’s theft/poaching, but if it leaves the estate of its own free will and wanders onto a road, then it becomes property of the owner of that land – i.e the roads department.

Legally, you could now be prosecuted for theft by the roads dept, but since they don’t generally mind folk tidying the roads for free, they probably never would.

The ‘don’t take it if you hit it’ rule comes about from the explicit offence of ‘driving deer’ with a motorised vehicle – i.e chasing/killing deer with a motor vehicle is automatically an offence unless express permission has been sought from the land owner.

So, legally you are likely to be ok to take anything you hit (apart from deer, or protected animals like badgers), if you seek permission from the roads department to take their property away.

However, the one major issue in all of this is that only people holding public liability insurance are allowed to deliberately kill animals on public highways, in case they get it wrong and the injured animal runs under /another/ car and injures the passengers.  Thus you’re definitely breaking the law if you find an injured deer in the middle of the road, and decide to dispatch it.  You /could/ drag it onto private land next to the road and dispatch it there, but then of course you’re killing an animal on private land without the owners consent which is poaching!

For the specifics on deer, see:

Deer Act 1991 (England & Wales)

Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 (Scotland)

Humane Dispatch –  Deer-Vehicle Collisions (UK Government Guidelines)

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