HELENA — There are a lot of roads and animals in Montana, and very often the two don’t mix.
According to the insurance company State Farm, Montana ranks second on the list of states where a collision with a deer is possible. Throw in a few more animals such as elk and moose to watch out for, and the idea of seeing roadkill isn’t a shock around the state. But following a collision, once everyone and everything is okay, what should or can be done with the animal?
One option is taking the animal home and creating a meal.
In 2013 the state legislature passed a bill that allows for deer, elk, moose and antelope killed as a result of a motor vehicle collision to be salvaged. All a person has to do is first pick up free permit from a law enforcement officer at the scene of the accident, or the Fish, Wildlife and Parks website.
“It’s really a tracking thing, during the non-hunting seasons of the year it could get a little uncomfortable to have a deer in the back of your truck and have to explain how it ended up there," explained Lauri Hanauska-Brown, FWP Wildlife Division Bureau coordinator. "It’s kind of a chain of custody more than anything."
FWP says that 2021 was a busy year for the salvage permit department, reporting 188 elk, 190 mule deer, 540 white-tailed deer, 45 pronghorn, and 37 moose were picked up around the state.
Picking up roadkill isn’t just a good way to make sure the meat isn’t wasted - every permit gives valuable information to FWP.
Hanauska-Brown said, "It really provides us a lot of information as to where these high-conflict areas are at across the state, so we have those records of people who file a salvage report telling us where lots of animals are being killed on the highway, where we might want to consider some work to reduce that."
Several state and federal agencies are working constantly to help prevent wildlife-vehicle conflicts, such as more animal crossing signs, improved culverts, and even the potential for animal migration passages over some highways like you can see in northwest Montana and Canada. These bridges might be an option with new federal infrastructure investment, but it is an expensive and complicated option.
In the meantime, it’s best to stay alert, especially during the dawn and dusk hours when the animals are typically most active. Don’t drive distracted and follow posted speed limits.
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