Roadkill deer in NJ — You can eat it, but there are some rules
"Imagine you're a deer," the character Mona Lisa Vito famously said to begin a monologue in the movie "My Cousin Vinny."
Now imagine you're a person who has hit a deer with a car, or sees a deer that has been hit on the side of the road. If you have a taste for venison, New Jersey has a process you need to follow, similar to if you hunted it yourself, to harvest that deer legally.
The Garden State is one of 27 states in America, according to NBC News, that has some kind of roadkill consumption law on the books, but is the only one that restricts regulations to deer only.
J.B. Person of Game Butchers in Lebanon both processes locally-killed deer, and sells legally inspected venison meat from New Zealand.
He said anyone who wishes to have their deer processed, whether it was hunted by someone with a valid license or just picked up off the road, must either call a special state hotline (855-I-HUNT-NJ) or go online to register the animal. That person will then get a confirmation number, and only then will a business like Game Butchers start preparing your meat.
For Person, that takes about a week, especially if specialties like smoking or sausage-making are desired.
As far as roadkill is concerned, Person said it's helpful to know what town you're in when you pick up your deer.
"Road kills can be processed as well, but whoever picks it up or wants it done has to obtain a possession permit from the local police department," he said.
All that information can be found in the state's annual Hunting & Trapping Digest, issued by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Person also said that for the last seven or eight years, Fish and Wildlife has been monitoring for something called chronic wasting disease, which has affected the deer population in New York and Pennsylvania this season, but has not been detected in New Jersey.
"They check the heads for this particular disease to make sure it's not around," Person said. "So far the deer herd's been very healthy, and there haven't been any cases found."
For a breakout list of the roadkill laws in 26 other U.S. states, click here.
"Discovering New Jersey" is a new, bimonthly series on New Jersey 101.5 that takes a look at some things about the Garden State residents might find surprising. If you have an idea for a future installment, contact Patrick Lavery, Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming, on Twitter @plavery1015 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.