Montana Legislation Allows Motorists to Salvage Road-Killed Game, but in Wyoming, it’s Still a Poaching Offense

Animal-vehicle collisions have long been a problem in western states, leaving big game carcasses discarded along – or as an additional hazard, in the middle of – roadways. In April, it became legal in Montana to salvage and eat deer, elk, antelope and moose that have been hit and killed by cars. - Not so in Wyoming.

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  Mar 30, 2017   admin


Animal-vehicle collisions have long been a problem in western states, leaving big game carcasses discarded along – or as an additional hazard, in the middle of – roadways. In April, it became legal in Montana to salvage and eat deer, elk, antelope and moose that have been hit and killed by cars.

Unfortunately, similar legislation, House Bill 144, died in the Wyoming Legislature this year, and currently, anyone who picks up road-killed game without a game warden permit runs the risk of being charged with poaching. 

deer.jpgPhoto: LostinFog

Apparently “hunting by vehicle” is at least part of the worry - that people could track a bison and wait until it gets on the road, get in their truck and try to run it over. but honestly, unless you’re a complete fool, it’s not worth the damage to your vehicle — State Farm estimates the average cost of collision with a deer is just over $3,300, making it a fools folly to seriously consider hunting with your vehichle. 

Bill co-sponsor Representative Dan Zwonitzer says that failure of the house bill means more work for state agencies, which manage the road kill.

“Currently, it’s a two-part process. If the animal is on the roadway, it’s WYDOT’s responsibility to get it off the roadway… After that, it becomes the Game and Fish’s responsibility to collect the carcass, dispose of the carcass, or, in some cases, they leave it to disintegrate along the side of the road.”

It's my strong opinion that this needs to change. 

Ethically speaking, we should all be eating roadkill, but practical, culinary and legal considerations make it hard for many to imagine cooking meat that is the result of vehicular accidents, but that needn’t be the case. If the roadkill is fresh, perhaps hit on a cold day and ideally a large animal, it is generally as safe as any game. Additionally, not eating roadkill is intensely wasteful: last year, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company estimated that some 1,232,000 deer were hit by cars in the United States. Now imagine that only a third of that meat could be salvaged. That’d be about 20 million pounds of free-range venison. I couldn't find any numbers on elk, antelope or other large game species, but I think it is safe to say that in western states these animals would add considerably to this total. 

Having personally hit a deer on an interstate in a snow storm several years ago, I have always regretted not being allowed to harvest the result of the accident. I stopped my vehicle, which incurred damage to both doors on the drivers side. The deer having been hit primarily in the head, was otherwise in pristine condition. Ultimately, I dragged the deer off the road, and sadly, left it to be buried by the next passing snowplow.