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Roadkill rack ended up in landfill; Fargo man says police bucked law in spat over deer

FNS Photo by Dave Wallis Rollie Hogue shows a record set of antlers along with some of the deer he has shot over the years Tuesday, August 6, 2013, in his south Fargo home.

FARGO -- Rollie Hogue had seen the big buck darting across South University Drive several times in recent weeks while driving to his early morning shift at UPS.

On Sunday morning, the Fargo man saw it again -- this time lying dead next to a lamppost on the boulevard, its impressive rack of velvet-covered antlers fully intact.

Hogue, who has hunted deer for 50 of his 61 years, wanted the head and antlers for a European-style mount. He would have preserved the velvet with formaldehyde and bleached the skull white. He called a game warden, who told him the roadkill hadn't been claimed and was his for the taking, he said.

That's when Fargo police stepped in and informed Hogue the carcass was destined for disposal in the city landfill.

"I'm absolutely, totally disappointed," Hogue said Tuesday. "I mean, this is a fabulous specimen of an animal that's now crushed out on the landfill, presumably. Who gains by that? At the very least, they could have taken the carcass meat out to the zoo and fed the wolves. They didn't even do that. This isn't serving the public like they're supposed to."

Hogue said officers at the scene told him that the deer had been struck between midnight and 12:15 a.m. Sunday.

Lt. Joel Vettel said a patrol officer and several motorists discovered the deer Sunday morning, and a number of people had already expressed interest in the antlers before Hogue happened upon the carcass about 7:30 a.m. while on his way to breakfast.

"Well, why was it still there, then?" Hogue said Tuesday.

Hogue contends he was the only person to contact Game and Fish about taking the carcass. He said the police officer on scene also spoke to the game warden -- Hogue said he couldn't hear what was being said -- and the officer's supervisor before informing Hogue that the carcass would be brought to the landfill.

After about 2½ hours of arguing with police, Hogue said, a city pickup truck showed up. The deer was loaded into the box and driven to a city maintenance shop in north Fargo, where it was loaded into the bucket of a backhoe and then hauled to the city landfill.

Hogue said a police car followed the backhoe and he followed the police car, but he wasn't allowed to follow the backhoe into the landfill to see the buck dumped.

The Jamestown-based game warden with whom he said he spoke declined to comment Tuesday, referring questions to Robert Timian, chief game warden in the department's enforcement division.

Timian said he didn't know the details of what happened and wasn't going to second guess why Hogue didn't get the deer. He said that under state law, if a big game animal is killed by a motor vehicle on a public roadway and someone wants to collect it, they must notify a game warden or local law enforcement agency, who in turn will verify the animal as roadkill.

The person must then fill out a report and be given a permit, a variation of a deer tag that gets attached to the carcass. The report is filed with the state Game and Fish office.

Timian said people want roadkill game for a variety of reasons, including consumption, for use as pet food and for the antlers.

Vettel said Fargo police handle such situations on a case-by-case basis. Citizens have been allowed to take carcasses for consumption in the past, but in this case the deer had been dead for several hours and its meat was spoiled, which Hogue acknowledged.

The police department doesn't have a specific policy to address big game roadkill, but its field services division follows a memorandum on tranquilizing wild animals when determining how to dispose of them, Vettel said.

Memo No. 2007-007 states that if an animal dies or is destroyed without the use of chemicals, the supervisor can arrange to have the street department transport the animal to the landfill or "give the deer to a citizen who may want the animal for consumption."

If the supervisor chooses the consumption option, the citizen must be provided with a Game and Fish permit, which have been placed in the supervisors' vehicles, the memo states.

Vettel said police may have handled the situation differently if they were confident that the meat would be used.

"If he just wanted the trophy antlers, I guess that I don't think that's a real proper use of our wildlife," he said.

Hogue said he requested but was never shown the city policy that justified the deer's disposal. He said he was told he had speak to the supervisor who made the decision, but he had to leave a message and when the supervisor called him back on Monday, "he was less than polite over the phone. He says, 'I haven't got time for this.'"

Hogue also objected to the buck's disposal on moral grounds, noting the deer had "perfect velvet" on its rack of antlers, which scored 145 inches and could have ended up at a near-trophy 165 to 170 inches by the time they stopped growing, he estimated.

"I mean, he would have been fabulous," he said. "He was pretty fabulous the way it is."