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6/11/2024 Assembly approves bill to modernize reporting of vehicle collisions with wildlife
STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today voted to approve a bill from Rep. David A. Bennett and Sen. David P. Tikoian to change the procedures for reporting vehicle collisions with wildlife and for collecting the resulting roadkill for consumption.

The bill (2024-H 7358A, 2024-S 2810aa), which was introduced at the request of the Department of Environmental Management, now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

“As populations of large animals like deer, bears and turkeys increase in Rhode Island, an increase in vehicle collisions is bound to follow,” said Representative Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), who chairs the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “Widening the data DEM collects while streamlining the reporting process will give our biologists a better idea of what’s happening in our ecosystem. And allowing large animals killed in these collisions to be distributed to those who know how to process them will reduce waste and allow those who like game to enjoy it.”

Said Senator Tikoian (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Lincoln), “In large parts of Rhode Island, deer collisions are not rare occurrences. As these collisions increase, it’s important to make sure the reporting process for them is simple and reliable, to ease the burden on those involved in the collision and to ensure DEM has accurate information about our deer population.”

The legislation would broaden reporting requirements for vehicle collisions with wildlife from only collisions with deer to any accident involving wildlife that substantially damage the vehicle, such as collisions with turkeys or bears. It would also make reporting these collisions easier for drivers by allowing them to report directly to DEM through an online portal or dedicated phone number rather than having to contact a conservation officer. Data from wildlife collisions are used in statistical models by DEM to estimate wildlife population, so making reporting easier will help DEM develop more accurate projections.

It would also allow the state to salvage unwanted roadkill for general consumption. Currently under state law only the parties directly involved in the collision can salvage deer for their own enjoyment. This change will allow wildlife salvaged from a collision to be used by organizations or individuals who have the capability and desire to process it, reducing the food waste that occurs when someone without those capabilities collides with a deer or other wild animal.

“DEM appreciates Chairman Bennett and Senator Tikoian for introducing this legislation on DEM’s behalf, which will provide our biologists a new data stream to make more accurate population assessments of Rhode Island’s wildlife,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “DEM receives over 1,000 reports of deer vehicle collisions annually and this legislation provides us more flexibility to respond to wildlife vehicle collisions effectively by allowing members of the public to salvage deer or other wildlife to use an underutilized resource and reduce the burden on state staff moving carcasses.”

Said Mike Woods, chair of the New England Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, “The New England Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers thanks Chairman Bennett and Senator Tikoian for their continued commitment to Rhode Island’s wildlife and applauds the passage of this bill. By providing the Department of Environmental Management the authority to promulgate regulations controlling the reporting, possession and utilization of wildlife involved in vehicular collisions, this legislation will enhance the state’s ability to monitor wildlife populations, while also easing an unnecessary burden on DEM’s Environmental Police and facilitating the responsible utilization of wildlife involved in vehicular collisions by the public.”

For more information, contact:
Tristan Grau, Publicist
State House Room B20
Providence, RI 02903