You kill it, you grill it. New California law allows drivers to eat roadkill

The bad news: While driving at night, you struck and killed a deer.

The good news: You just got a free venison dinner, under a bill now signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Senate Bill 395 authorizes the creation of a pilot program in California, wherein the state will designate, no later than Jan. 1, 2022, up to three regions “having high wildlife vehicle collisions” as being valid locations where drivers may salvage the meat of certain animals killed as a result of collision.

Those animals include elk, deer, pronghorn antelope and wild pig. The bill specifically excludes animals protected by the California Endangered Species Act.

Newsom signed the bill into law over the weekend; previously, it was against the law for anyone but state and local agencies to remove an animal carcass from the road. California now joins approximately half the country in allowing drivers to harvest roadkill.

Deer account for approximately 90 percent of all wildlife collisions in California, according to research from UC Davis, while elk and pig account for less than 1 percent each. There are an estimated 20,000 vehicle-on-deer collisions in California every year, according to the UC Davis Road Ecology Center.

The law is currently set to sunset Jan. 1, 2029.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.