The reality of roadkill in Pennsylvania and how to deal with it

By Ashley Adams

October 25, 2023

Roadkill is a reality on many Pennsylvania roads, so it’s good to know how to deal with it. Here’s a handy guide to follow when encountering, or creating, roadkill in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is a sight to behold with its rolling farmlands and dense woodlands in a myriad of colors, surrounded by bustling cities and quiet suburbs. But as you eclipse the speed limits on our busier roads or motor leisurely along the two-lane country roads, eventually, another, not-so-picturesque sight will creep into view: roadkill.

Unless you’re a turkey vulture, there’s not much to love about dead stuff that’s been overcooked on the pavement. But with wildlife found throughout the state, roadkill is a reality on many Pennsylvania roads, whether you encounter it or create it yourself.

Right now, deer run the highest risk of becoming roadkill, as they become more active in autumn with the lead-up to their fall breeding season, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Around this time, many yearling bucks disperse from the areas in which they were born and travel — sometimes several dozen miles — to find new ranges. Meanwhile, adult bucks more often are cruising their home ranges in search of does, and they sometimes chase the does they encounter. Unfortunately, these searches sometimes bring deer dangerously close to vehicle traffic.

According to the Game Commission, Pennsylvania drivers face some of the highest risks of vehicle collision with a deer or other large animal, such as black bear or elk, all year long. The commonwealth led the country in animal-collision insurance claims in 2022-23. State drivers have a 1-in-59 chance of a vehicular accident involving a big game animal, most commonly deer, one of the highest rates in the nation.

As deer and other wildlife become increasingly active in the fall, here’s a handy guide on what to do should you wind up in a situation involving roadkill.

Find a safe place to pull over

If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of hitting an animal while driving, first, find a safe place to pull over and catch your breath. Encountering wildlife on the road can be an unnerving experience. Especially if you’ve just hit a deer (which a good number of Pennsylvania drivers have).

Assess any damage

Check the damage to your vehicle in case you need to take pictures for an insurance claim. You might even have to report the collision to the local authorities if an accident report is required by your insurance provider.

Consider the potential hazards to other motorists and try to move the carcass off the road if at all possible. Make sure the animal is dead first, though. Do not try to move it if there are any signs of life. If you have a shovel or similar tool in your vehicle, use that to move the carcass off the road. Or, if the animal is small, nudge it off the road with your shoe. If the animal is too large, leave it for the proper authorities to handle.

Call the proper authorities

To report a dead animal for removal, call the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at 1-800-FIX-ROAD if it’s a state road, or the Game Commission at 1-833-742-4868 or 1-833-742-9453 if it’s a local road.

If a deer is struck by a vehicle, but not killed, drivers are urged to maintain their distance

because some deer might recover and move on. However, if a deer does not move on, or poses a public safety risk, drivers are encouraged to report the incident to the Game Commission or another law-enforcement agency. If the deer must be put down, the Game Commission will make the arrangements to do so.

Claiming the deer carcass

Hunting is very popular in the Keystone state and many residents enjoy eating the fruits of their kill. So it’s not unheard of for someone to load up fresh roadkill, such as deer, and take it home for dinner.

If the deer dies, only state residents may claim the carcass. To do so, you can call

the Game Commission at 1-833-PGC-HUNT or 1-833-PGC-WILD and an agency dispatcher will collect the information needed to provide a free permit number, which the caller should write down.

A resident must call within 24 hours of taking possession of the deer. A passing Pennsylvania driver also may claim the deer, if the person whose vehicle hit it doesn’t want it.

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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