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 is second on their list of states where a collision with a deer is possible. Throw in a few more animals, like elk and moose, to watch out for and the idea of seeing roadkill isn’t a shock around the state. But following an accident, once everyone and everything is okay, what should or can be done with the animal?
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 a 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, you know during then 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," Fish Wildlife and Parks Wildlife Division Bureau Coordinator Lauri Hanauska-Brown told MTN. "So, it’s kind of a chain of custody more than anything."
FWP report 2021 was a busy year for the salvage permit department. Roughly 188 elk, 190 mule deer, 540 white-tailed deer, 45 pronghorn and 37 moose were picked up around the state according to 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.
“So that we’re keeping track of who has what in their possession," said Hanauska-Brown. "Then in addition to that, it really provides us a lot of information as to where these high-conflict areas are at across the state. So, we at least 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."
Multiple state and federal agencies are working constantly to help prevent wildlife-vehicle conflicts. Work like more animal crossing signs, improve 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.