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Roadkill Now On The Table In Wyoming, But Not Before Regulations Are Finalized

A small herd of deer crosses a Wyoming highway.
Joe Riis
Wyoming Migration Initiative
People who salvage roadkill can eat it or use it for things like making pet food or for taxidermy.

According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), every year, around 6,000 big game animalsare hit on roads in Wyoming. These animals are left to waste by the roadside until they're picked up by Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) employees. But thanks to new legislationpassed this year, Wyoming will soon join 30 other states that allow people to collect those animals.

"We know that a lot of carcasses won't have a lot of edible portions left on them by the time [people are] getting home and processing them but I think proponents argue that this could provide an opportunity for somebody to take home some wild game and put that to good use and put it in their freezer for consumption. So if that occurs, I think that's a beneficial product of this legislation," said Rick King, WGFD Chief Game Warden and Chief of the wildlife division.

King is leading the team that's creating regulations for the new law. It will come into effect in July, but harvesting these animals still won't be allowed until regulations are finalized. King expects that to be some time in November.

"That formal rulemaking process is dictated by state laws that direct agencies in terms of how they implement regulations. We can't start the formal public comment period until after July one, but behind the scenes, we can start getting that draft regulation ready so that we're ready to go soon after July one," said King.

The regulations will go through a 45 day public comment period before being presented to the Game and Fish Commission for final approval.

King says they're currently considering the idea of using an app for people to gain approval before collecting roadkill - something that's required by the law. They're still working out a way to accommodate Wyoming's spotty cell service.

"An ideal process will be one that doesn't create a huge workload for our field personnel, but then also is such that it's simple for people who want to collect roadkill," said King. "And then lastly, we also have a concern that we don't want to create any kind of a loophole that would allow somebody to take advantage of this process to cover illegally taken wildlife."

The law also requires those wishing to collect a carcass to take the entire thing and outlines certain species that will be exempt from collection.

Another concern is roadside safety. WYDOT may recommend certain roads where roadkill harvest isn't allowed based on things like traffic and the size of the shoulder.

Preventing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a concern that was brought up extensively during legislative debates. WGFD will include regulations for disposal of collected animals in CWD areas.

"We're primarily concerned about the brain and the spinal column of a deer, elk or moose, and so within regulations we'll include language that directs folks that pick up roadkill to dispose of those parts from those animals in an approved landfill once they've processed the animal," said King. "We don't want those parts of the brain and spinal column picked up and transported to somewhere else, with the notion that we're trying to minimize any environmental contamination that could occur."

Meat from collected animals also cannot be donated to charities.

Ivy started as a science news intern in the summer of 2019 and has been hooked on broadcast ever since. Her internship was supported by the Wyoming EPSCoR Summer Science Journalism Internship program. In the spring of 2020, she virtually graduated from the University of Wyoming with a B.S. in biology with minors in journalism and business. When she’s not writing for WPR, she enjoys baking, reading, playing with her dog, and caring for her many plants.
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