Legislature sends roadkill salvage bill to Governor

Photo Courtesy Flickr, Don Debold

Photo Courtesy Flickr, Don Debold

Lawmakers have given the final go-ahead to a bill allowing residents to harvest big game animals killed by vehicles. The Montana Senate voted 28-21 Friday to send the roadkill salvage bill to the Governor.

“It seems like a waste,” said bill sponsor Representative Bill Lavin (R-Kalispell). A Montana Highway Patrolman, Lavin says he’s had many people ask him to harvest fresh roadkill, requests he has had to refuse. “This bill…would allow me to legally call the food bank or allow somebody else who requests it to take it and use it.”

Under the measure, law-enforcement officers would issue permits for the salvage of deer, elk, moose and antelope hit by cars. Lavin also originally included the likes of fur-bearing animals and game birds but removed them due to the “high value of some of their parts,” and worries about poaching.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks would be responsible for regulating the salvage permitting process, but bill opponents brought up concerns over food safety.

“Are highway patrolmen and law enforcement experts in meat inspection?” Asked Senator Kendall Van Dyk (D-Billings). “I have not seen anything in the bill…that indicates to me that the safety parameters are in place to let me know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a safe food source for those in need, or anyone else for that matter.” He says The Montana Food Bank Network him a letter opposing the bill and clarifying the network cannot accept roadkill.

Lavin, the bill’s sponsor, points out the state does not inspect animals killed through hunting. “In Montana, we have a lot of common sense,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to tell when meat is rotten.”

The Montana House of Representatives has already passed the bill 95-3. Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, has not yet indicated whether he will sign it.

A few other states have some kind of roadkill salvage laws on the books including Alaska, Idaho and Illinois.

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