PER-CAPITA, PORT Angeles topped the state in the number of salvage roadkill permits issued in the first year of Washington’s new law.
Port Angeles was third overall in the state with 43 salvage permits issued between July 1, 2016, the date of the law’s inception, and June 30, 2017.
Overall, the city came in third behind bigger cities such as No. 1 Olympia (50) and No. 2 Spokane (43).
“I think a lot of people are utilizing it,” state Department of Fish and Wildlife Police Sgt. Kit Rosenberger said.
“I think the public likes it, likes the idea of the animal not being wasted and instead being recovered.”
Deer and elk collisions are an understandable consequence of living in a rural area here on the North Olympic Peninsula, and in other ungulate-heavy areas such as the Methow Valley in Eastern Washington.
On one stretch of state Highway 20 heading east toward Twisp, drivers are warned with numerous, prominent signs that display that year’s number of accidents with the antlered set.
Deer/elk-auto collisions became so frequent along U.S. Highway 97 in Okanogan County that Jay Kehne, a member of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission who lives nearby, brought forth a proposal for a roadkill salvage law similar to ones in nearby states like Montana and Idaho.
That proposal was adopted and the law allows for salvage of deer and elk killed by motor vehicles (only elk may be retained in three counties, Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum in southwest Washington where federal laws prohibit handling endangered Columbian white-tailed deer).
Sworn police officers like those from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, state troopers, county deputies and city police, plus any WDFW-authorized individual, are authorized to euthanize struck animals, and the entire carcass, entrails and all, must be removed from the road and right-of-way.
Anyone who takes possession of a deer or elk carcass must obtain a free, printable permit from Fish and Wildlife within 24 hours and keep a copy of the signed and dated permit with the meat until all edible parts are consumed.
As part of the notification process, roadkill salvagers are required to submit the time and location where they struck and salvaged the animal. Fish and Wildlife tracked 1,610 incidents during the new law’s first year and compiled them on a spreadsheet.
Such data collection can potentially help the state target trouble spots and improve highway safety, for bipeds and quadrupeds alike.
And it also provides some interesting details for this column.
The first animal salvaged on the North Olympic Peninsula, and the second legal salvage in the state, was a female deer struck east of the Dungeness River Bridge on U.S. Highway 101 in Sequim at 4 p.m. July 1, 2016, the first legal day for roadkill salvage.
A female elk reported near Naselle at midnight July 1, 2016, was the first legal roadkill in state history.
Jefferson County’s first salvage, a female elk, occurred July 8, 2016 on U.S. Highway 101 just south of the Dosewallips River bridge in Brinnon.
The first roadkill recovery in Port Angeles, a female deer came coincidentally enough, about a mile up Deer Park Road on July 13, 2016.
A five-point bull elk was reported struck south of Forks near Bogachiel State Park on Aug. 29, 2016.
November saw the most collisions, 12, in the Port Angeles area. October and December were busy as well, which tracks with Fish and Wildlife and insurance industry data that show November, the height of the fall mating season, as the month with the highest number of deer-elk/vehicle collisions.
Rosenberger said despite the law’s popularity on the North Olympic Peninsula, the number of calls hasn’t put a burden on area Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officers.
“I don’t think it’s increased our workload all that much,” he said. “Occasionally, we’ll get a call from a motorist asking to expedite a permit and euthanize an animal that is mortally injured, but it’s not an every day, or even an every week kind of thing.”
Before the law came into effect, Fish and Wildlife officers reacted to calls for animal assistance in the same manner as they do now, making every attempt to humanely end the lives of suffering animals.
“If it was something called into us right away and we were nearby, we would have made every attempt to euthanize quickly if we came to the conclusion the animal wouldn’t make it.
“Then for deer and elk, we would try to donate the meat somewhere, a food bank or to tribal elders. So that has changed a bit with the new law.”
As with any law, Rosenberger said he has heard reports of scofflaws breaking the rules and poaching deer and elk in the guise of roadkill salvage.
“We haven’t had anything like that reported here on the peninsula,” Rosenberger said.
“But there have been some reports of people baiting in the road (placing bait in the roadway to attract deer and elk), but so far, that’s been very limited. And of course, that’s not only a safety issue for motorists, but completely illegal.”
Area 9 opener
Good-sized chinook and lots of them awaited anglers who thwarted last Sunday’s less-than-stellar tide.
Rosenberger was out on a Fish and Wildlife enforcement boat for the opener.
“I was out on Sunday and the fishing from what I saw was pretty good off Port Townsend,” Rosenberger said.
“For the opener, it was pretty good fishing. It also seemed like bigger fish than what I saw last year.”
An old Little League baseball and high school football teammate of mine, Zack Dean of Port Townsend, had good luck catching the king in the above photo Sunday. His dad, Cary, and brother Jesse, also had good luck catching a hatchery chinook.
Port Townsend’s Gage Little also has had ample success since the opener catching kings with red racer and valentine (red, green white) Kingslayer lures. Little uses a Sensiflex rod.
On a salmon troller that caught one, I think the pinks will be average.
Shellfish samples from Port Townsend Bay and Kilisut Harbor have been found to contain elevated levels of marine biotoxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). As a result, the state Department of Health has closed Port Townsend Bay, Kilisut Harbor and Mystery Bay for recreational shellfish harvest.
The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of molluscan shellfish and extends a previous closure that covered only butter and varnish clams. Discovery Bay and the Strait of Juan de Fuca east to McCurdy (Middle) Point closed in June.
Crab meat is not known to contain the biotoxin but the guts can contain unsafe levels. To be safe, clean crab thoroughly and discard the guts (also known as the “butter”). Shellfish harvested commercially are tested for toxins prior to distribution and should be safe to eat.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]