Roadkill can soon become dinner in Oregon

By Julia John

Wildlife killed in road collisions can one day be put on people’s plates in Oregon after the state legislature passed a bill meant to prevent useable meat from going to waste.

Although neighboring states such as Washington and Montana allow harvesting meat from animals killed in vehicle crashes, it has been illegal in Oregon due to concerns that poachers would purposefully run over wildlife. But a longstanding interest in making use of the carcasses prompted the state legislature to pass a bill legalizing roadkill salvage. Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill on June 14.

According to the new law, deer and elk (Cervus canadensis) killed by vehicles can only be salvaged for meat consumption and antlers must be turned in to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The law will go into effect in January 2019. Using other states’ roadkill salvage programs as models, ODFW aims to draft new state rules that won’t allow for poaching.

“We want to write rules so getting a permit to salvage road-struck deer or elk is as simple as possible,” said ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy.

Vehicles claim the lives of many ungulates in Oregon, Dennehy said, especially in parts of the state where they migrate across highways. Roadkill is a particularly serious issue when it comes to mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), whose populations have been declining to concerning levels over the past few decades due to traffic disturbance, predation and habitat loss and degradation, she said.

ODFW and the Oregon Department of Transportation have been collaborating to create wildlife crossings to mitigate mortalities, but the roadkill salvage bill would be an effective way to address deaths that do occur, Dennehy said.

“No one likes to see a game animal wasted, so if people are able to salvage the meat from an otherwise sad incident, that’s a good thing,” she said.

Julia John is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at jjohn@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article.

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