Oregon Roadkill

In this June 2008 file photo, a wounded deer lies in the road after being hit by a car on the northbound lane of Interstate 295 near Freeport, Maine. In Oregon, under a road kill bill passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature and signed by the governor, motorists who crash into the animals can now harvest the meat for human consumption.

November was a bad time to be a deer in Douglas County.

Drivers have hit 715 deer on Douglas County’s major roadways so far this year, and more than a quarter of those collisions were in November.

Last month also had the highest number of collisions in one month — 190 — since 2013.

The number of collisions peak in the fall months, when there is less daylight and deer go into mating season.

Deer and elk are also on the move in the darker months, migrating from higher elevation summer habitats to their lower elevation winter homes.

Two-thirds of last month’s collisions — 127 — were on Interstate 5.

Areas of Highway 138 and Interstate 5 near Roseburg have some of the highest average collision rates in the state, with more than 11 collisions per mile per year, according to data provided by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Interstate 5 hotspots include areas near Clarks Branch Road, which had 58 reported collisions in the last five years and the Douglas County Fairgrounds, which has had 52.

On Highway 138, most collisions occurred near Hatfield Drive in Dixonville and Sunshine Park.

Other areas that have similarly high numbers are Highway 20 near Bend, and Highway 66 and Route 140 near Klamath Falls.

In some areas, wildlife crossings have been constructed to help prevent animals from getting struck while darting into traffic.

The state completed two wildlife underpasses on Highway 97 near Bend in 2012.

ODFW said the project helped reduce deer collisions, which it says cost $6,633 on average, by more than 90 percent.

Tod Lum, a district wildlife biologist for ODFW in Roseburg, recommended scanning the road for deer crossing signs and assuming if you see one deer cross the road, there will be others.

“You have to be vigilant,” he said.

If drivers do see a deer, Lum said to honk their horn, which can scare the animals out of the road.

ODOT recommends drivers stay in their lane and avoid swerving.

“It doesn’t take much for a car to get totaled,” Lum said.

Normally, when a deer or elk gets hit and killed county road workers pick them up.

But that could change when new roadkill laws enacted by the Oregon State Legislature go into effect.

Come January, Oregon residents that accidentally hit and kill a deer or elk can harvest it for consumption only.

Several other states allow roadkill to be harvested.

Under current guidelines, only licensed fur trappers are allowed to salvage protected animals killed by cars, which was meant to discourage people from poaching by purposefully hitting an animal.

Once the new rules go into effect, salvagers have to fill out a free online permit through the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The animal’s antlers and head also have to be taken to an ODFW office so the agency can check for chronic wasting disease.

Lum said people who consume the meat do so at their own risk.

“There’s a lot of animals that get whacked that I would not want to eat,” he said, adding that a lot of roadkill looks good until you skin it back.

Michelle Dennehy with ODFW said residents can harvest deer or elk that other people have hit — if they want.

“If you are driving along the highway and you see a struck deer/elk that is dead,” Dennehy said. “You can do that.”

But she added that her agency isn’t going to be doing meat inspections

“A lot of times when we do get roadkill now, we can’t donate the meat because it isn’t up for human consumption,” Dennehy said.

Saphara Harrell can be reached at 541-957-4216 or sharrell@nrtoday.com. Or on Twitter @daisysaphara.

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Crime and Natural Resources Reporter

Saphara Harrell is the crime and natural resources reporter for The News-Review. She previously worked at The World in Coos Bay. Follow her on Twitter @daisysaphara.

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