October 12, 2013 11:32:05 PM
HELENA, Mont. -- Salvaging roadkill for the dinner table is not only legal starting this month in Montana, but state officials plan to let drivers who accidentally kill big game to simply print out permits at home that allow them to harvest the meat.
The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission approved regulations Thursday that allow people to go online for permits to salvage for food the animals they hit and kill within 24 hours of the fender-bender.
No need to present the carcass to a law-enforcement official in person within a day of a crash, as was originally planned. Now drivers will be able to apply on a website and print out permits from their own computers.
"With all the advances in technology, why not allow people to do that," said Ron Aasheim, spokesman for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency.
Montana lawmakers earlier this year passed the bill allowing motorists to salvage deer, elk, moose and antelope struck by vehicles.
Supporters who didn't want to see the meat go to waste won out over skeptics who wondered whether the meat would be safe for human consumption.
Other doubters stewed over whether drivers would intentionally gun their engines whenever they spotted an animal in the road.
The Legislature left it to the state agency to sort out the details and how to issue roadkill permits. FWP released its proposed rules this summer, among them: the salvaged meat has to be eaten, not used for bait. Also, the whole carcass has to be taken, not just the choice bits with the rest left on the roadway for scavengers.
"We ask they remove the entrails, as well, to prevent further accidents with wildlife species," said Jim Kropp, administrator of the FWP's enforcement division.
The agency received 86 comments on the proposed rules, most backing them. But many said they wanted the permit system to be as simple as possible, prompting FWP to develop an online system.
Under the new system, a person would go to the FWP website, complete an application, agree to terms and conditions and print out the permit within 24 hours of the crash. For serial strikers, one permit per animal is required.
People can still present the carcass to an officer or an FWP office during regular business hours to get a permit, if they prefer.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission, meeting in Miles City, unanimously approved the rule after Kropp assured commissioners the agency had spoken with the Montana Highway Patrol about taking steps to ensure drivers stopping on the side of roadways won't create a public safety hazard.
Commission Chairman Dan Vermillion also asked Kropp to watch out for those who would use the new permits to disguise poaching.
Permits will be tracked, allowing FWP enforcement officials to look for signs of abuse, Kropp said.
"This is a well-intentioned bill," Vermillion said. "Hopefully it addresses people's concerns about wasted game in the roadway."