Roadkill is safe to eat in many instances but there are risks of rotting, rabies, and disease. You can avoid these risks by knowing what signs to look for and using common sense:
- Look for freshness. Obviously, if you have witnessed the animal being hit, it’s fresh. In terms of coming across roadkill, signs of freshness include clear eyes, fleas still active on the fur or hide of the animal and general signs of it looking fresh. Rigor-mortise sets in quickly, so stiffness of the body does not mean that the animal is not fresh.
- Use the temperature as a guide. Roadkill in winter is likely to remain fresher longer than roadkill in summer.
- Avoid roadkill that has maggots, fly, or other scavenging insect infestations, as this indicates a lack of freshness. However, the presence of fleas is a good sign and means that the animal is probably still edible.
- If the animal’s eyes are milky, clouded, or white, it is less fresh but may still be edible.
- If it stinks of rotting flesh, trust your nose but be aware that there will be some stench just as a result of the impact, as wind, excrement, etc. is forced rapidly through the body. This odor may release when moving the carcass too, so odor isn’t the sole indicator of the state of the meat.
- Look for whole roadkill. Roadkill that has to be scraped off the road because it has been flattened or is so crushed up as to be unrecognizable is not worth it and won’t be healthy for you to consume. Avoid roadkill in the middle of roads. Instead, look along the side of roads, on the shoulders and beyond, where bodies often end up from impact or after crawling away from the hit point..
- Except in a survival situation, don’t eat roadkill you aren’t sure is fresh. Why risk your health? If the roadkill seems to be in good shape, you could still use the hide.