Road Kill Sandwich

caribou21I heard an interesting story the other day.

Two guys were driving down the road near Tok and happened upon a road kill caribou with a tie down strap around it’s neck. Curious, they slowed down to take a closer look. Headlights approached, and the other truck slowed down, too.

In the other truck were two old men. One of the older guys said that he was trying to get the caribou into their truck and had just gone to town to round up some help. Some of the young men in town they spoke with weren’t too keen on heading out in minus 50 degree weather. He was only able to rustle up the help of another guy who was even older. The two of them hadn’t been able to lift the 250 lb.-plus adult cow.

“I’m on the list,” he said. “Would you help us?”

The two younger men helped lift the cow into the old guy’s truck while the old man thanked them over and over again, clearly grateful, because that meat could literally mean the difference between life and death in these parts.

True story.

I asked my husband about this. He explained that there is a list that anyone around here can get on that gives them permission to take possession of road kill for sustenance. In general, road kill – or animals fallen victim to “non-natural death” or “human-cased mortality” – automatically become property of the state under the jurisdiction of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

But if you’re on the list, the road kill is…fair game.

photo by G. Risdahl, ©2008, All Rights Reserved

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  1. That’s a very different situation than here in Texas, where it’s illegal to possess any part of a roadkill animal. (I think it’s to prevent people from poaching deer and claiming it was roadkill; poaching is a very big problem here.)

    Anyway, I was in Tok last year, one of the many tourists to spend a night as part of a tour group (photos here: Really liked it; bought some great souvenirs (like a lynx pelt, not the sort of thing one finds every day) and had a nice dinner at the gas station/restaurant. Would love to come visit again and stay awhile.

    Just not when it’s 50 below. I had enough of sub-zero temperatures when I lived in Wisconsin as a kid. (And the cold there was bush league compared to Alaska.)

    Stay warm,

  2. Similar thing in rural Ohio. LOTS of deer here. If a person hits a deer they can let the “powers that be” know and they can take it home.

  3. steve

     /  January 12, 2009

    It depends on what part of Alaska you live in.

    I stood in -49 waiting for the school bus in northwest wisconsin.

    And Embarass Mn had a -60 in 1996.

    I think Anchorage is generally mild compared to Minnesota.

    Probably not Tok or Fairbanks however.

    I also had -49 on two other occasions in Ontario, just north of International Falls.

    I finally got to experience propane freezing up.

    You have to have a wood stove to heat the water and pour over the propane regulator to get it going again.

  4. steve

     /  January 12, 2009

    It was Feb 2 1996 in Tower MN, about 10 miles north of Embarass.

  5. What a great story. I wonder what level of enforcement there would be though? Seems that most of the folks I have known in Alaska have a deep respect for nature and I can’t imagine the need for a game warden (Fish & Wildlife Officer). Our county in Kentucky takes thousands of deer annually and we only have 2 officers. And we have 38,000 residents.

  6. In some parts of Alaska the deal is when it’s your turn on the list, you go butcher the animal and you keep half and the other half goes to the local homeless/poor/whatever. I think specifically in the case of larger animals like Moose half is plenty…

  7. I can just imagine someone hiding in a bush with their vehicle, waiting until they see a caribou, then revving the engine and striking… Just a thought. Brilliant site, found it through Townie Bastard, I think.

  8. Chloe

     /  January 14, 2009

    Wouldn’t it damage your car though? I guess you gotta have good “deer guards”. We had those when I used to drive taxi in the boondocks.

  9. zacinak

     /  January 16, 2009

    When you hit a moose you buy a new car….I knew someone who hit one in a kcar(think small) roof was peeled back halfway to the back whole front end crushed

  10. Roland

     /  March 23, 2009

    We lived down on the Kenai at MP 36 Seward HWY 1969-76 and stayed on the F&G list for road kill moose. When one was reported, local F&G would get on the horn (phone or CB) and start doing a check off, if contacted, you could accept or refuse. (which was the same as accepting) We kept a freezer full of meat year round, as we were meat hunters, if the freezer was full come season, we never bothered hunting that year.

    When we came outside, the kids almost refused to eat beef, they thought is was not flavorful at all.


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