Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks began issuing its latest breed of big game permit last week, and what many had regarded as a joke proved to be instantly popular. As hunters prepared to pack up their gear at the close of the general rifle and archery seasons, dozens of opportunistic Montanans began turning battered fenders into food sources.
As of Monday, FWP had issued 45 permits for roadkill salvage statewide.
Rep. Steve Lavin, R-Kalispell, came off as somewhat self-deprecating in February when he referred to his proposal allowing the state to issue roadkill salvage permits as "the first true clean-up bill of this session." Turns out he may have been right. FWP reports that Montanans have already claimed three elk, 13 mule deer and 29 white-tailed deer from roadsides, including three white-tailed deer right here in Missoula County.
The permits only apply to deer, elk, moose or antelope and can be obtained free of charge from law enforcement officers at the scene of a wildlife-vehicle collision or through an online application page at fwp.mt.gov. You don't have to hit it to claim it, but logic (read: the overwhelming desire to not get sick) dictates it's best to make sure the kill is fresh before making dinner plans. The law does require, however, that you get the animal home before processing it.
Indy food columnist Ari LeVaux has written about the virtues of the new permit system, as well as the safety concerns. He likens the process to hunting, noting that a hunter always opens the body cavity as soon as possible to let body heat escape, and the same should be true when gutting roadkill. "Until you open it up, you have no idea what it looks like inside. It could be a total mess," LeVaux says, adding that a trained nose will tell you as soon as you open up the animal if the meat is still good.
As gruesome and unappetizing as the idea might sound to some, there's an apparent demand for fresh roadkilland the potential to grow the program. Two Republican state senators in Michigan recently introduced legislation to ease the pressure on peckish drivers by allowing them to take a dead animal right away and apply for a salvage tag later. It's a logical extension of the current law. After all, roadkill is already a ticking clock. Who has time for paperwork before dinner?