SID SALTER: Roadkill legislation gains traction in Ohio

SID SALTER

SID SALTER

Normally, comedy writers in New York or Los Angeles would be aiming this story squarely at Mississippi or another rural state. But truth be known, this tale emanates from Ohio.

Republican Ohio state Rep. Bob Hackett introduced House Bill 199, which would allow Ohio motorists who hit and kill feral hogs, wild boars or turkeys to legally claim the carcasses and take them home. The legislation adds wild hogs to the list of roadkill, including deer that motorists can currently claim in Ohio.

No word yet – as dutifully pointed out one ink-stained wretch at an Ohio newspaper – on just how Ohio state Sen. Kevin Bacon, R-Franklin County, will vote on the measure.

Some 15 states have made legal the practice of claiming roadkill carcasses, including Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The legislation had its genesis in most states over deer, moose or elk carcasses, but the explosion of the feral hog population has legislation like that in front of Ohio lawmakers more than a punch line.

The practice of collecting roadkill is clearly not something that would make a lot of Mississippians swoon – at least, not the ones raised in rural Mississippi.

When my daughter was about two years old, her mother and I were cruising south on Highway 45 headed back to Forest from a weekend in Macon in my old Volvo sedan. I topped a hill near Electric Mills just in time to hit not one but three deer in the middle of the highway.

We were all fine, but the Volvo didn’t fare as well. It was marginally operable, but pretty banged up. I called my insurance agent and soon a state trooper pulled up to check on us.

About the time I finished talking with the trooper, a truck pulled up and three Noxubee County residents jumped out. The lead man asked politely: “Y’all mind if we pick up those deer?”

I replied: “Not me. I have to explain to a 2-year-old who loves Bambi what just happened here.”

The trooper, with only a hint of a smile, said: “Well, I guess if you want to move them off the highway maybe that would be ok.”

While there is a certain “Beverly Hillbillies” quality to any discussion of the proper means of disposal of roadkill and the broader notion of whether said roadkill is “fresh” or not, there’s one surprising group supporting (or at least not actively opposing) the legal claim, processing and consumption of animal roadkill. Predictably, PETA calls the practice “meat without murder.”

Ohio lawmakers have had no small amount of fun poked at them in the media over this approach to dealing with the growing feral hog population. But farmers and landowners who deal with the swelling population of wild hogs know that there will be few states not tempted to take drastic measures.

If you think hitting a deer can damage a vehicle, try hitting a fully grown wild boar. I’ve had that experience, too, late one night in Monroe County. After getting the repair bill, I would really like to have barbequed that hog.

Whether Mississippi actually gets into the roadkill legislation business or continues to wink-and-nudge at the practice, it was nice to see that states outside the old Confederacy are taking the lead in legalizing and regulating the practice of roadkill collection and consumption.

One can only imagine what Granny Clampett would have had to say about this emerging area of law – to say nothing of Sen. Kevin Bacon of Ohio.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com or (601) 507-8004. He is official spokesman for Mississippi State University, but his column opinions, unless otherwise noted, are his own.