Road Kill Salvaging Opens to Popular Demand

By Beacon Staff

Last weekend marked the end of rifle hunting season, but Montana residents still have a shot at filling a deer or elk tag.

A new state law went into effect Nov. 25 that allows drivers to salvage deer, elk, moose or antelope killed in a motor vehicle collision. Anyone who salvages road kill must obtain a free permit within 24 hours, either from law enforcement officers or Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ website.

After the law’s first week, FWP had already issued 45 permits across the state, according to spokesperson Ron Aasheim. Four of those permits were in Flathead County and two in Lincoln County.

“To me it’s a surprise,” Aasheim said of the high volume of permit requests.

Three permits were for dead elk, 13 were for mule deer and the rest were for whitetail deer, Aasheim said. A majority of the deer were antlerless females.

It may seem outlandish, but salvaging road kill is fairly common across the U.S., with more than 14 other states on board including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan.

Representative Steve Lavin (R-Kalispell) introduced the House bill last legislative session and it was tweaked to remove fur-bearing animals, upland game birds and migratory birds from being salvage-worthy.

Montana seemed like a natural fit considering the high frequency of deer crossing the roadways. Earlier this year, State Farm released its annual report on deer collisions and ranked Montana second in the U.S. for the likelihood of an accident. The odds for Montana drivers are one in 65, which is much greater than the national average of one in 174.

“I’m not surprised that the Flathead is having a number of people (file for salvage permits),” said Lee Anderson, FWP Warden Captain in Region One. “We have a lot of deer on the highway, so the opportunity is there.”

Anderson and others urge precaution when salvaging road kill. FWP is advising anyone who takes home road kill to closely check the meat, just like any big game harvest. FWP reminds residents that consuming road kill is at their own risk.

“People need to be aware that if (the road kill has) been there awhile you may not want to eat it,” Aasheim said.

Here are some of the rules and guidelines for salvaging road kill:

  • • Permits are not eligible on Indian reservations.
  • • A person must obtain a permit within 24 hours of the time they take an animal into their possession.
  • • A person may use a salvage permit to possess an animal killed only by vehicular collision.
  • • Only whitetail deer, mule deer, antelope, elk and moose may be salvaged.
  • • The animal must be killed after the collision and drivers cannot dispatch of it themselves. A law enforcement officer may, however, when on the scene of a collision, kill an animal injured in the collision and that animal may be taken for salvage.
  • • A person who salvages the road kill must take the entire animal, including the entrails if it is gutted on site.
  • • It’s advised to turn on vehicle hazard lights while salvaging an animal, and people should do so quickly to reduce traffic hazards. Any person who is picking up an animal must comply with all highway rules and regulations while removing the animal.
  • • Salvaged meat must be used for human consumption. It may not be used for bait or other purposes. Meat may not be sold.
  • • It is unlawful to dispose of animal carcasses or parts within 200 yards of any highway, road, street, or alley or upon public property.

To obtain a road kill salvage permit or for more information, visit fwp.mt.gov/hunting/licenses/salvagePermit.html

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