Harvesting Road Kill Meat In The Copper Valley

ROAD KILL Quality Meat From The Highways  For 30 years, Bruce Cain of Glennallen has been handling the road kill circuit in the Copper Valle...

Quality Meat From The Highways 

For 30 years, Bruce Cain of Glennallen has been handling the road kill circuit in the Copper Valley. Bruce, who works at Ahtna, Inc., spent 10 of the past 40 years in Cordova. But all the rest of the time he’s been here in the valley and actively going out and retrieving dead wildlife from the highways to distribute to families in need. 

You Kill It, We Grill It!
“Road Kill” in Alaska is not like road kill elsewhere. In the Lower 48, animals struck down by vehicles and squashed flat onto the highway tend to be small creatures: armadillos, skunks, possums, rabbits…

This has led to rural jokes about cooking up road kill for dinner, and many, many “Road Kill Grills” or “Road Kill Cafes."

The punchline “menus” for road kill diners and cafes are legion:. They're often called "Today's Hits" – and tend to regional delicacies like “Banged up Bunny,” “Road Toad,” “ Fender Tenders,” “Chunk of Skunk” or “Snake-n-Bake.” The list is endless.

In Alaska, though, “road kill” is serious business. And here, road kill is delicious, high-quality meat: Moose, bison, caribou…

A Thousand Moose
In the years he’s gone out to bring road kill in off of Copper Valley roads, Bruce Cain has picked up a lot of meat. “That’s pretty close to a thousand moose. Maybe half a million pounds of meat,” he told the Country Journal.

Moose and caribou, of course, are very dangerous to run into. People are regularly killed by striking large animals on the highways. Wildlife lurching onto Alaskan roads are deadly. 

This winter, with the heavy snows, moose in the road are a real problem. A moose was struck on the morning of Wednesday, February 9th at the start of the Tok Cutoff. And moose and bison have been jumping into the Richardson and ALCAN highways near Delta Junction for days, triggering DOT warnings from up north.

What Causes Road Kills?

Bruce Cain has analyzed the various factors that trigger road kill moose.

“There are three things that create risk for moose road kills,” he said. His list is as follows:

1. Dark that prevents drivers from seeing moose.
2. Deep snow that pushes animals on the road.
3. Icy roads that prevent stopping or maneuvering to miss a moose on the road. We have all of that right now…
New Rules
Over the past months, the system for going out and getting road kills in the Alaska has changed.

Said Bruce, "The Troopers changed the road kill list this fall and said if you don’t sign up electronically, the old list will be abandoned and you will not be on the new list. I applied electronically and have not received a call since…”

Bruce Cain added, “Here is the link that is currently on line with a quick Google search.”

"The problem is you can’t call and check. They have a policy that if you call and check they will remove you from the list. Other people I know who did not apply electronically have received calls. And it’s random…”

He said, “Others who have applied electronically have received calls as well.” So it's confusing. 

Wasilla: It’s Far Away
One factor in the confusion is the dispatch system and its lack of familiarity with the Copper River Valley, and its people.

“The list is maintained by Mat-Com at the Wasilla police department,” said Bruce Cain. "So they don’t know they can call me if they can’t find someone to go out. I always will pick up a road kill if I can for someone. As a result, I have heard of several moose that have not been recovered and spoiled. For a while they were not even trying to call anyone to recover moose in the Glacier View area. I personally called Mat-Com on a moose dead in the road at 94 Mile Glenn (at Victory) coming back from Anchorage last fall and they told me they heard it was off the road and were not able to contact a charity. I offered to pick it up. A Trooper called me 20 minutes later (luckily I had cell service) and told me to salvage it if I could. So Shirley and I turned the Taurus full of Costco stuff around. With a pocket knife, in the middle of the night, we took care of the moose. Good thing. I would do it again if it is going to be left to waste. This moose was shared with many in the community and fed many families. Shirley and I can’t eat that much moose any more so most of the road kills we do is shared..."

Processing Road Kill 
One way of seeing the magnitude of scooping up a single hit is by checking out some photographs of the cutting process.

“Attached is a picture of a road kill,” said Bruce. “That was November 2021. It was a 20-inch bull hit by a drywall contractor at 179 Mile Glenn Highway. I think I have done two other moose in the two months since then. Usually we are doing one or two road kills a week this time of year. I think, but don’t have the data, that there are about 30 road kills a month in the Copper Basin. That’s about one a day. Also attached are a couple of pictures of a typical road kill operation once it is in the shop from 2019…”

Photos of moose road kills, Bruce Cain 

Need For More Information

Bruce Cain would like to find a way of expediting moose kill pickups again in the Copper Valley. “It would be good if someone could find out from the Troopers how the road kill list in Glennallen is currently being maintained and who is on the list, or at least how many people are on the list and how you can find out if they have your contact information correct,” he said.

He added, "What I want to change is being able to review and participate in the road kill responder database. The Mat-Com dispatchers actually do a decent job of getting you out to the right place where the moose is. It is the breakdown of the list who is on it and the lack of interaction on it. If you look at the last sentence in the AST link it is pretty clear: “ So don’t call us.” They toned it down a little bit. It used to have added on: “Or you will be removed from the list!”


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