During its first year, a program to legalize collection of roadkill in Montana involved more than 800 permits being issued.
October was the one-year anniversary of the law that allows drivers to recover roadkill for personal consumption.
“It really exceeded my expectations,” said state Rep. Steve Lavin, R-Kalispell, who sponsored the bill when it went through the Legislature last year. “People seemed to really take advantage of the bill, and it is cool to see that it helped a lot of people.”
Since October 2013, 865 permits were issued through Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to harvest roadkill, with 135 of these in Flathead County — the most of any county, according to Lavin.
Of those 865 permits, 704 were for deer, 123 for elk, 33 for moose and five for antelope.
The bill allows drivers to harvest roadkill that has been dead for less than 24 hours, whether or not these drivers killed the animal. Lavin said the intention was that people would harvest fresh meat that they personally hit and killed. However, some Montana drivers have harvested game that they found near the road already dead.
Drivers are only allowed to harvest deer, elk, moose and antelope.
Free roadkill permits are available from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. They can be issued by the Montana Highway Patrol or other authorities responding to the collision or they can be downloaded from the Fish, Wildlife and Parks website, fwp.mt.gov.
The person must remove the entire animal to prevent other wildlife from scavenging in a place that would put them at risk of also being hit.
The goal for the bill was to cut down on potential food waste, Lavin said.
Lavin said he has not had the opportunity to utilize the bill, but has known several friends who have taken advantage of it.
“I actually had a friend hit a deer near my house, and he called me to ask what to do,” Lavin said. He was able to walk his friend through the process. Later that deer was made into jerky.
Lavin suggests people only harvest meat that is known to be fresh.
“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.”
To be certain, those who have been issued permits can take the animal to a game processor who can properly dress and prepare the meat.
Other states, such as Wyoming, Idaho and Illinois, have similar laws for harvesting vehicle-killed game, which vary in specifics.