Under a bill that just passed the Montana House of Representatives, game animals killed on the road by vehicles could soon be legally salvaged and used for meat, according to FoxNews.
House Bill 247 allows law enforcement officers to issue permits to individuals to salvage game animals, defined as antelope, deer, elk or moose.
“When people first hear about it — road kill — some of them think this is a crazy bill, but it’s not,” said Lavin, who’s been a trooper with the Montana Highway Patrol for more than 20 years.
And he has been able to convince the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee that it is a viable and beneficial idea. The bill passed that committee by a vote of 19-2. It then cleared the House floor with a 95-3 vote and has been transmitted to the Senate, according to the report in the Daily Inter Lake.
Lavin said his original drafted of the bill allowed generic “game animals, fur-bearing animals, migratory game birds and upland game birds” to be salvaged, but that raised concerns with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.
Some animals, such as Bighorn sheep, are frequently killed by vehicles in the Thompson Falls area, but allowing them to be legally salvaged could cause their potentially valuable carcasses to become the focus of profiteering, officials feared.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks expressed the same concerns about bears, mountain lions and other animals that would be desirable for their heads, claws or furs, Lavin said, “I took out anything that might be a concern to them.”
He told reporters, “The bill is solely about salvaging game animals for their meat, when it is salvageable.”
He added that people hit a lot of animals on roadways in the state—“I mean a ton of them,” Lavin added that usually the highway patrol or other law enforcement agencies are called to respond.
In many cases, the animals are seriously wounded and must be put down because of the injuries. It is in those cases that Lavin said he has sometimes been asked if the animal can be salvaged.
“I have to tell them, ‘No,’’ because of current state law, Lavin explained, “There’s a lot of good meat being wasted out there,” he told Jim Mann of the Daily Inter Lake.
The measure can also actually be cost saving for the State because the responsibility for eventually picking up road carcasses falls on the Department of Transportation.
Rep. Lavin also said that Highway Patrol now often calls food banks that do take road kill, even though that is a technical violation of the law, but these organizations often can’t drive the distance to pick up an animal soon enough to salvage it.
Addressing questions as to whether the salvage permit could be abused, Lavin said that is not likely, because law enforcement is acting as a control for when permits should be issued.
“People aren’t going to intentionally hit an elk when it’s going to cost them $1,500 in damages to their vehicle,” Lavin told the Daily Inter Lake, “nor are poachers going to go through the problems of staging a road kill with the possibility of being caught.”
People already take antlers from deer and elk road kill, and permits would simply allow that to become legal if the meat is salvageable, he said.
It isn’t expected that requesting salvage permitting will become a widespread practice, simply because most people aren’t interested in road kill, Lavin explained, but if someone needs the food and is interested in interested in game meat it could be used without breaking the law.
Lavin explained that the idea for the bill came from fellow troopers, and he learned later that similar legislation has been passed by other states.
Lavin will soon defend the bill in the Senate. “I hope they will see it the same way, and I hope the governor will see it the same. I think this thing is going to pass,” he told reporters.
“It’s about fresh kills on cooler days” when the meat won’t spoil, Lavin said. “And it gives law enforcement a chance to actually help people, too.”