Share story

The idea came from something a state lawmaker noticed while cruising the wide-open roads of Montana. The highway often has carcasses — plenty of them.

“There are a lot of animals and a lot of roadway in Montana,” state Rep. Steve Lavin said. “I’ve had a ton of people ask me after striking a deer or an elk, ‘Can I take it?’ And I have to say ‘no.’ ”

That could soon change.

If a bill becomes law, Montana motorists could take home roadkill — and cook it up.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

The legislation, which cleared the state Senate in March and awaits the governor’s signature, emphasizes that the animal has to have been “accidentally killed.”

In 2011, the most recent year available in the Montana Department of Transportation’s “carcass database,” there were more than 1,900 collisions between vehicles and wild animals in the state. Of the more than 10 types of animals that make the carcass list — including black bears, bighorn sheep and mountain lions — white-tailed deer are the most common.

Lavin said the meat goes to waste. Well, most of it.

If a dead animal still looks “good and fresh,” he said, sometimes officials reach out to food banks to see whether they could use the meat.

“Technically that’s against the law, but it is happening,” Lavin said, adding that the practice influenced him to write the bill.

If dead game does become fair game, Montana will be in the company of a handful of other states.

In Illinois, residents can pick up dead deer as long as they report it, aren’t behind on their child support payments and don’t have suspended wildlife privileges.

In West Virginia, if motorists kill anything other than protected birds, spotted fawn or bear cubs, and report it within 12 hours, they can keep it.

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.