New law may lighten the load of roadkill on road commissions

Roadkill is a common, unpleasant sight Upper Peninsula residents often behold as they make their way around the area. Road commissions around the U.P. make it part of their daily duty to rid the roads of remains.

The Marquette County Road Commission is tasked with cleaning up local highways and byways after animals meet their ultimate demise. Removing unsightly scenes like these may not be the most pleasant job, but the MCRC handles it with aplomb.

“If it’s in an area where there’s not much population, we just kind of drag them off to the side of the road and let them deteriorate there on the side of the road in the ditch and off into the tree line,” said Jim Iwanicki, Engineer Manager at the MCRC. “If it’s in a populated area, generally we pick it up and take it to one of our gravel pits or sand pits, where we bury the remains.”

Most roadkill incidents occur in the spring and fall when animals are most active. Whitetail deer pose the biggest problem for Road Commission workers, as their size can require bringing out additional resources such as front–end loaders or bucket trucks for what is considered a lower priority task.

“When we do that, and you spend that time and effort to get that deer, that sometimes ties up half the day, three quarters of the day for the crews to do, and again, when we’re doing that, we’re not doing stuff like fixing potholes, grating roads, doing the mowing,” Iwanicki added. “So again, it takes away from what I would say our core mission is.”

A new act passed by the Michigan legislature last week hopes to ease some of the burden on agencies like the MCRC by simplifying the process followed by drivers and other residents wishing to keep roadkill for use or salvage.

Instead of first obtaining a permit to claim deceased animals as was previously required, Public Act 255 of 2014 states that Michigan residents now need only notify local law enforcement or the Department of Natural Resources of their intent to keep an animal killed on the road, with the driver involved in an animal collision having priority. Residents will need to request a salvage tag and keep written records of the animal they possess. The new law does not apply to some animals, such as migratory birds, moose, and wolves.