Set aside the stigma and sam­ple the cui­sine.

American Survival Guide - - CONTENTS - By Brian M. Mor­ris

There is no short­age of rea­sons that road­kill should be har­vested from the streets when­ever pos­si­ble. From an eth­i­cal stand­point, it is wrong to let the an­i­mal die for no good rea­son and be left on the street to rot when there are peo­ple in this coun­try who go to bed hun­gry ev­ery night. When you look at it from the per­spec­tive of sound eco­nomics, you can save a great deal of money by sup­ple­ment­ing meat that is com­mer­cially raised and butchered with meat you can sal­vage from the street. Eat­ing road­kill is also an op­por­tu­nity to get over any food aver­sions you might have prior to a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion, and it gives you a chance to try some dif­fer­ent species of wild game you might oth­er­wise not have had the op­por­tu­nity to eat. How­ever you look at it, eat­ing road­kill is not the “taboo” that many peo­ple in our so­ci­ety have made it out to be. Re­mem­ber the in­fa­mous words of your mother: “Try it; you might like it!” Har­vest­ing road­kill is gen­er­ally a four-part process: lo­cat­ing the road­kill, in­spect­ing it for ed­i­bil­ity, pro­cess­ing the meat by sep­a­rat­ing the skin, or­gans and guts from the meat and quar­ter­ing and clean­ing the meat, and fi­nally, ei­ther cook­ing the road­kill for im­me­di­ate con­sump­tion or freez­ing it for cook­ing at a later date.


Lo­cat­ing road­kill in Amer­ica is hardly a challenge. Each year, ac­cord­ing to a 2010 Hu­mane So­ci­ety es­ti­mate, ve­hi­cles kill ap­prox­i­mately 365 mil­lion an­i­mals on Amer­ica’s vast net­work of high­ways and roads. A 2008 Fed­eral High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­port es­ti­mated that one to two mil­lion large an­i­mals were killed on our roads per year. If you pay at­ten­tion, you will not have to look very far to find an an­i­mal that has lost its life on or near a road­way.


First and fore­most, trust your senses. Hu­man be­ings, in gen­eral, have an in­nate abil­ity to know when food is ed­i­ble or ined­i­ble. Di­etary pref­er­ences aside, what I mean to say is that when food looks, smells or tastes rot­ten, you will know it. Think about when you drive or walk by an area where an an­i­mal car­cass is de­com­pos­ing. You don’t need a pro­fes­sional to tell you that the meat on that an­i­mal has gone sour. How of­ten have you opened a bag of chicken thighs that had passed its ex­pi­ra­tion date, only to get


knocked on your butt by the foul smell of the spoiled meat? An­i­mals pos­sess dif­fer­ent lev­els of senses to help them find food and avoid eat­ing things that can hurt them. Hu­mans pos­sess a keen sense of smell for ex­actly this rea­son. If the meat is bad, lis­ten to your nose, be­cause it will tell you all you need to know! If the road­kill passes the smell test, it is still ex­tremely im­por­tant to in­spect it. As­sess not only how fresh the meat is but also whether the an­i­mal suf­fered in­ter­nal in­juries from the blunt force trauma that killed it. Ve­hi­cle strikes can of­ten cause in­ter­nal in­juries that re­sult in tainted meat, mak­ing it much harder to sal­vage many of the an­i­mal’s ed­i­ble parts. An­other thing you will want to check is how long the an­i­mal has been dead. Rigor mor­tis can of­ten set in quite fast, some­times in un­der an hour, so it is not a good in­di­ca­tor on its own that the meat is no good. Most wild, warm-blooded an­i­mals that have fur are in­fested with fleas. One way to see how long an an­i­mal has been dead is by look­ing un­der its hair for these lit­tle par­a­sites. Fleas pre­fer to feed on the warm blood of their hosts. Once an an­i­mal has been dead for a few hours or more, the par­a­sites will gen­er­ally have moved on to find an­other source of food. You can also in­spect the an­i­mal’s eyes. One of the first changes to oc­cur as an an­i­mal starts to go through the de­com­po­si­tion process is that a white, milky film will form over its eye­balls. If the eyes are clear, it’s a good sign the an­i­mal has been dead for only a short time. Of course, the amount of time an an­i­mal can stay on the road be­fore you har­vest it is also af­fected by the tem­per­a­ture. The colder the tem­per­a­ture, the longer the an­i­mal can stay in the el­e­ments with­out rot­ting and with­out be­ing pro­cessed and cooked. Fi­nally, look for flies. Flies are amaz­ing crea­tures—they have an un­canny abil­ity to ap­pear, seem­ingly out of nowhere, once an an­i­mal starts to de­com­pose. That said, flies are not al­ways go­ing to be a deal-breaker when it comes to har­vest­ing road­kill, be­cause they are some­times un­avoid­able,

de­pend­ing on the lo­ca­tion and time of year. There are cer­tain an­i­mals you should pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to be­fore de­cid­ing if they are worth har­vest­ing. Rep­tiles pose a par­tic­u­lar risk. Tur­tles, igua­nas and snakes are all pos­si­ble car­ri­ers of sal­mo­nella and should never be eaten raw. This is re­ally the rule for most meats—par­tic­u­larly when har­vest­ing road­kill. In this sce­nario, ”well done” should be the only choice in prepa­ra­tion. It is pos­si­ble to be in­fected by bac­te­ria such as E. coli and sal­mo­nella through con­sump­tion of wild game; that is why it is im­por­tant to do your re­search and take all the ap­pro­pri­ate steps to in­spect and pre­pare your har­vest prior to con­sump­tion in or­der to mit­i­gate the risk of get­ting sick. When it comes to the risk of be­ing in­fected by tainted meat or from a dis­ease-in­fected an­i­mal, the best ad­vice is to re­search the ar­eas where you are go­ing to har­vest your road­kill to de­ter­mine which an­i­mals might be at risk for car­ry­ing dis­ease. Then, in­spect the an­i­mal’s car­cass, both ex­ter­nally and in­ter­nally. As an added pre­cau­tion, you should cook the hell out of any meat you plan to con­sume.


While you al­ready started the in­spec­tion process to get to this point, you should keep in mind that the in­spec­tion never re­ally stops, be­cause the final test of whether or not the an­i­mal is safe to eat is go­ing to be taste and di­ges­tion. If it doesn’t taste right, it prob­a­bly is not good, and your body will let you know that ... via one end or the other. When it comes to pro­cess­ing road­kill, the steps at this point very much re­sem­ble the way you would pre­pare any other meat for con­sump­tion. The ex­act steps are merely “tech­niques,” and ev­ery­one has their own. I will share how I like to do it, and you can use my method or do it the way you pre­fer. Ei­ther way, the main con­cern is that you have clean, un­tainted and ap­par­ently un­in­fected meat. I like to start by re­mov­ing the an­i­mal’s head. For most an­i­mals, I try to make my cut just be­low the head to leave as much har­vestable meat as I can. Some an­i­mals, such as snap­ping tur­tles, have some of the best cuts of meat on the neck, so you want to sal­vage as much of that meat as pos­si­ble.

When pro­cess­ing poi­sonous snakes (or any snake, if you are not cer­tain), it is a good idea to make your cut about 6 inches be­low the head to make sure the sacks that con­tain the poi­sonous venom have been re­moved. Be­cause we are talk­ing about snakes and snap­ping tur­tles, an­other good tid­bit of in­for­ma­tion to re­mem­ber is that both an­i­mals can bite you long af­ter they are dead, so great care should be taken to avoid the busi­ness end of these crea­tures once the head has been sep­a­rated from the body. A snap­ping tur­tle’s body seems to live on for an hour or more af­ter be­ing killed. I have butchered an en­tire tur­tle down to re­mov­ing the shell, sep­a­rat­ing the dif­fer­ent types of meats and re­mov­ing all the guts and or­gans. I was still able to hold its sep­a­rated heart in my hand and watch it beat for more than 20 more min­utes un­til it fi­nally stopped pul­sat­ing. The tur­tle’s head, sev­ered from its body, still pos­sessed the biting force needed to break a num­ber two pencil when placed in its beak! Poi­sonous snakes com­pletely lose the abil­ity to reg­u­late how much venom they de­liver af­ter they die. They still have the abil­ity to bite you af­ter they are dead, so you are go­ing to get all the venom they have to give. I rec­om­mend you place the head in a sharps dis­posal con­tainer and then dis­pose of it in ac­cor­dance with your com­mu­nity guide­lines. If you can’t do this, put the head into a jar with a screw-on lid and bury it in a hole sev­eral feet deep. The jar will pro­tect your pet if they get cu­ri­ous and try to re­cover what you buried, but I would still make sure your pet stays away from the dis­posal site. I then cut off the lower por­tion of each of the an­i­mal’s feet just at the joint. At this point, on smaller an­i­mals such as squir­rels and rab­bits, I pre­fer to cut a small in­ci­sion across the cen­ter of the back­bone just big enough to get two of my fin­gers un­der the skin on each side. I then pull the skin and fur in op­po­site di­rec­tions, and the skin will gen­er­ally peel right off. I pre­fer to hang larger an­i­mals that have a large amount of blood from their hind legs and peel the skin down. On an­i­mals larger than a rab­bit, I cut the skin all the way around the anus be­fore I peel the skin off the an­i­mal. When the an­i­mal is skinned, I make a down­ward ver­ti­cal in­ci­sion with a sharp knife, start­ing at the an­i­mal’s neck and con­tin­u­ing all the way down through the cen­ter of the rib cage. I con­tinue down through the cen­ter of the hind legs all the way to the anus to ex­pose the small in­tes­tine. Then, I re­move the an­i­mal’s guts in the same way that one might clean out a fish.

It is im­por­tant to note that spe­cial care should be taken to not rup­ture the an­i­mal’s blad­der, bow­els, bile ducts or stom­ach, be­cause this can spoil the meat. Re­mem­ber: The in­spec­tion process never re­ally ends.


Af­ter you have the an­i­mal gut­ted, you should in­spect it to en­sure that none of the tis­sue or or­gans ap­pears ab­nor­mal in shape or color and that there are no ab­scesses or par­a­sites vis­i­ble.

While the heart and liver of most an­i­mals are ed­i­ble, it is an ac­quired taste. How­ever, there is no harm in giv­ing it a try. Look for any bile ducts or glands in the liver and other or­gans, and make sure you do not punc­ture them or that they were not rup­tured when the an­i­mal was struck by the ve­hi­cle. If they were, you will

prob­a­bly smell it be­fore you see it. The bile will taint any meat it comes in con­tact with, so it is def­i­nitely some­thing you need to be aware of when pro­cess­ing road­kill. I don’t like to waste any part of the an­i­mal, so I put all the un­used parts of the road­kill into my com­poster or use it for cat­fish bait. If you are in a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion, or you just want to prac­tice your bushcrafting skills, you can make tools and even fish hooks and sewing nee­dles from the an­i­mal’s bones and cloth­ing or shel­ter with the hides or pelts.


Now, you are ready to update any of your fa­vorite “barn­yard” recipes with what­ever ex­otic trea­sures you were able to har­vest off the street. Bon ap­pétit! Check out a few recipes that work well for me (see the side­bars on pages 101, 102 and this page). While in a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion or when eat­ing “at your own risk,” you can eat fresh road­kill as soon as you find it, in­spect it and process it. There are sev­eral pre­cau­tions you can take to help lower the risk of get­ting sick from eat­ing con­tam­i­nated meat: Many ex­perts ad­vise that you freeze road­kill at -4 de­grees (F) for four days or longer to be cer­tain you have killed any tape­worms or other par­a­sites that might have been present in the meat. Re­gard­less of whether you freeze the meat or eat it right away, it is al­ways smart to cook the heck out of it. At a min­i­mum, you need to make sure the meat is cooked to above 160 de­grees (F) be­fore eat­ing it.


Eat­ing road­kill gives you a chance to try some dif­fer­ent species of wild game you might oth­er­wise not have had the op­por­tu­nity to eat.

i Right: It is al­ways smart to carry sur­gi­cal gloves and a thick con­trac­tor’s garbage bag for col­lect­ing and stor­ing the road­kill af­ter you har­vest it from the road.

While squir­rels do not have a whole lot of meat, what they do have is a propen­sity to get hit by cars. That means you can eas­ily collect three or four of them to cook at once; to­gether, they should make a sat­is­fy­ing meal for any­one.

One tech­nique for pro­cess­ing small game is to cut an in­ci­sion across the cen­ter of its back big enough to get sev­eral fin­gers into. That way, you can peel the an­i­mal’s skin from its car­cass.

If you don’t want to waste any part of the an­i­mal, you can put all the un­used parts of the road­kill into a com­post heap, or you can use it for cat­fish or trap­ping bait.

Spe­cial care should be taken to not rup­ture the an­i­mal’s blad­der, bow­els, bile ducts or stom­ach, be­cause this can spoil the meat.

Even ined­i­ble parts of road­kill can be put to good use. These tur­tle shells were cleaned out to be used as cups.

Simply pull the skin and fur in op­po­site di­rec­tions, and the skin will gen­er­ally peel right off.

Far left: As you can see, even a small rab­bit can pro­vide a sur­pris­ing amount of meat.

Near left: Once you get the meat sea­soned and into your pot, you'll be­gin to for­get that this meal was sourced on the road.

Some an­i­mals, such as this snap­ping tur­tle, re­quire you to cut through ar­mor-like plates. A pair of gar­den­ing shears works great at cut­ting through the tough­est an­i­mal parts.

If you do hap­pen to come up on a mor­tally wounded snap­ping tur­tle, it can still reach out and bite you. The best way to handle a snap­ping tur­tle is to hold it by its tail with its belly plate fac­ing away from you.

Tur­tle meat is one of the eas­i­est forms of road­kill to find—they are slow movers, even on the road. Tur­tle meat is ac­tu­ally ex­cel­lent. Tur­tles can pos­sess up to seven dif­fer­ent types of meat within one an­i­mal!

Snap­ping tur­tle skin is ex­tremely tough, and you may find it dif­fi­cult to process the an­i­mal with a stan­dard hunt­ing knife.

The head of a snap­ping tur­tle is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to cut off with a knife, so you might find that prun­ing shears work much bet­ter at get­ting the job done.

When it comes to cut­ting through bone, car­ti­lage or par­tic­u­larly tough skin, a pair of trauma scis­sors re­ally gets the job done.

When pro­cess­ing tur­tles, it is first nec­es­sary to re­move the belly plate in or­der to get to the an­i­mal’s flesh and or­gans.

The au­thor re­moves all of the tur­tle's ap­pendages be­fore sep­a­rat­ing the two parts of the shell.

Top left: Once you get your street meat to this point, you'll be min­utes away from a great meal.

Bot­tom left: Follow the recipe on this page to trans­form a road­side squir­rel find to a BBQ mas­ter­piece.

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