Montana Roadkill Law A Big ‘Hit’

A new law that permits Montanans to harvest roadkill has proven enormously successful, with more than 800 game animals removed from the highways for human consumption in its first year on the books.

The law that became effective Nov. 25, 2013, permits citizens to salvage deer, elk, moose or pronghorns killed in a motor vehicle collision. Anyone salvaging roadkill must obtain a free permit within 24 hours, either from law enforcement officers or online from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website.

In its first year, 865 permits were issued statewide, with Flathead County residents acquiring the most of any county, with 135, according to figures released last week by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Rep. Steve Lavin, R-Kalispell, primary sponsor of the bill, said its purpose was to fill the freezers of Montana families and food banks rather than letting road-killed animals and their salvageable meat go to waste. Lavin, who also serves as a captain in the Montana Highway Patrol, said his experience responding to wildlife-vehicle collisions on the state’s highways prompted his support of the measure.

Although the bill was the butt of jokes initially, Lavin said the high number of permits issued is evidence of the new law’s success.

“My intent when drafting the bill was to reduce waste and maybe help a few people out at the same time,” he told the Flathead Beacon newspaper. “It became quite a joking matter, but that’s OK.”

While the idea of harvesting roadkill might be met with chuckles from the uninitiated, salvaging road-killed game is common across the United States, with more than 14 states permitting the practice, including populous Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan.

Further, a recent report from State Farm Insurance recently ranked Montana third in the nation for the likelihood an accident involving deer. The odds for Montana drivers are one in 75, which is much greater than the national average of one in 174.

Among the provisions in Montana’s law is one requiring salvaged meat to be used for human consumption, and not for bait or other purposes. Meat may not be sold and those who salvage an animal must take the entire animal, including entrails, if it’s gutted on site.

Rep. Lavin also offered some rather obvious advice for the would-be roadkill remover, noting it’s important to salvage only meat that’s been freshly killed.

“I wouldn’t attempt it unless you know animals or you’re a hunter,” he said. “However, it can be easy to tell if something isn’t fresh.”

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