If Your Car Hits a Moose in Maine, You Get First Dibs on the Carcass

A bull moose crossed a logging road near Kokajo, Maine.
A bull moose crossed a logging road near Kokajo, Maine. –AP/File

It’s mating season for moose in Maine, and that means the enormous animals are more prone to venture out of the woods and sometimes onto the state’s roadways. Vehicle collisions with moose sometime result in serious injuries and death for drivers and passengers.

It’s an issue the state takes seriously, and drivers are urged from a young age to be aware of moose.

Another thing Mainers are aware of — and it’s something that might surprise people from out of state — is what happens to a moose (or other game animal) if it’s killed on the roadway.

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Well, to begin with, the driver gets the chance to keep it, according to Sergeant Tim Cotton of the Bangor Police Department.

“When a car hits a game animal, the person that hits the animal gets first dibs,’’ said Cotton. “Some people don’t have stomach for wild game, so a lot of police departments keep a list of people who would like to pick up the animal. If the driver refuses the road kill, police use the list to attempt to contact someone willing to come get the animal.’’

It doesn’t take many calls to find somebody, according to Cotton.

“Recently, I was taking my son to college, driving through Pennsylvania, and saw some road kill,’’ Cotton said. “You don’t see road kill in Maine because people are going to pick it up.’’

While deer (venison) and moose can be a fairly common dish served by Maine residents, don’t go looking for real moose-burgers or moose steaks at any restaurants in The Pine Tree State, says Cotton, who added that some of the state’s private fish and game club do hold wild game dinners.

Cotton said in recent days the department has gotten a steady stream of calls about moose being spotted wandering around Bangor – often on people’s lawns. Some people reported seeing a moose in a Burger King parking lot.

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In addition to their enormous size (adults can top well over 1,000 pounds), there are additional hazards specific to moose being in roadways.

Moose are taller than other animals, and car headlights often shine below the animal’s bodies, according to Cotton. “Also, headlights won’t capture the moose’s eyes (because of its height), and their bodies are so dark a driver often won’t see a moose until it’s too late,’’ he said.

So is there a “safe’’ way to hit a moose? There actually is a section in the State of Maine Motorist Handbook and Study Guide devoted to wildlife safety, including a paragraph on what a driver should try to do if a crash with a moose is unavoidable.

If a crash with an animal is imminent, apply the brakes and steer straight. Let up on the brakes just before impact to allow the front of your vehicle to rise slightly and aim to hit the tail end of the animal. This can reduce the risk of the animal striking the windshield area and may increase your chances of missing the animal. Duck down to protect yourself from windshield debris.

Moose can wander onto Maine roadways throughout the year, not just during mating season, according to Bangor Police Sergeant Wade Betters.

“In the summertime, the heat and the bugs and insects will drive the moose out of the woods and onto the roadside,’’ Better said. “It’s not uncommon to see a moose trying to lick salt off the road.’’

In July there were two moose-car crashes in one night in Maine. The second crash involved a state trooper who was responding to the first one.

Days earlier, a driver in Monson, Maine survived after striking a moose. The images from the crash (which are graphic) can be seen in an earlier Boston.com report here.

One way the moose population is held in check in Maine is through a hunting season, held over several periods each year in Maine’s various wildlife districts. Permits are given out to hunters through a lottery system. In 2014, Maine issued 3,095 permits, according to Sergeant Alan Gillis of the Maine Warden Service.

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