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Washington State Legalizes Roadkill Salvage, Oregon Still Firmly Forbids

Courtesy photo WDFW

Can we interest you in some elk tartare? Or how about venison crash-ciatore? Oregon still firmly forbids people from collecting roadkill, but Washington state has now joined Idaho and Montana in allowing individuals to salvage dead deer and elk from the roadside.
Early response to the legalization of roadkill salvage this summer is positive according to Mick Cope, deputy assistant director of the Wildlife Program at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"The biggest input that we had from the public was, 'You know, why let the meat go to waste,'" Cope said Friday. "You hit a deer - maybe you hit it in the head - and it died on the side of the road, but the rest of the deer is perfectly edible."

Cope says you need to obtain a free permit from his department's website within 24 hours of collecting a road-killed deer or elk. There is indeed demand. Nearly two hundred of those permits have been issued in the first two months of availability. Cope made it clear you eat at your own risk.

"I got asked by our public affairs director when my cookbook was coming out, but I don't cook well enough," he quipped.

As you might expect, running down an animal with the intent to harvest is still illegal under Washington law. The roadkill salvage rules also require people to take home the entire carcass. Field dressing beside the highway is not allowed.

One other caveat is that deer may not be salvaged in three southwest Washington counties - Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum. That is meant to prevent any misunderstandings regarding possession of endangered Columbian white-tailed deer.

There are no signs that Oregon is ready to change its longstanding policy on roadkill. "Salvaging game animals as roadkill is still not legal in Oregon," wrote Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy in an email.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission reviewed the past three to four years of experience with roadkill salvage legalization in Idaho and Montana before lifting its prohibition.

"What we heard back from those states was the concerns they started out with - that people would be running over deer or elk just so they could get them without having a hunting license and stuff - didn't really come true," Cope reported. "It turns out that people don't really want to mess up their cars that bad."

According the WDFW, motorists on average strike and kill more than 3,000 deer and elk on state highways each year. Cope said the permit requirement will provide additional data about animal-vehicle collision locations, which could guide transportation planners in targeting safety improvements.

Idaho is more permissivethan Washington in allowing roadkill salvage of not only deer and elk, but also black bear, mountain lion, wolves, moose, game birds, turkeys, raccoons, coyotes and hares. Like its neighbors, Idaho requires individualsto complete an online form to report the roadkill salvage.