Isn't it legal to salvage roadkill for meat in Oregon? Not yet

FILE - In this March 4, 2010, file photo, a deer runs across the road in Pittsburg, N.H. In Oregon, under a road kill bill passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature and signed by the governor, motorists who crash into the animals can now harvest the meat for human consumption. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

SALEM, Ore. — Can't you salvage the meat from roadkill in Oregon?

Not yet.

New rules allowing drivers to salvage deer and elk hit by cars won't take effect until Jan. 1, 2019, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

State troopers have fielded the question at the scene of a crash several times this year, according to the state agencies.

And the question is likely to be asked more as we enter the worst time of year for collisions with deer and elk: According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, there were 1,160 such crashes in November 2016 and 1,052 this October. There were only a few hundred last December.

This is prime season for deer and elk to cross Oregon roads as they move from summer habitat to their winter homes. The breeding season also puts the animals on the move - just as daylight begins to dwindle, making visibility poorer for drivers.

“Be extra careful driving this time of year, especially where there is a lot of vegetation next to a road, or when going around curves as wildlife near the road might not be visible,” said Oregon State Police Captain Bill Fugate. “Drivers who see an animal near the roadway should try to reduce their speed and be aware that other animals will often be crossing, too. Finally, if you can, stay in your lane because serious crashes involving wildlife are often due to drivers swerving to avoid hitting an animal.”

For now, state agencies do attempt to salvage animals and will donate edible meat to a local food bank when possible.

With the passage of Senate Bill 372 in the 2017 legislative session, drivers will also be able to salvage roadkilled deer and elk for meat.

That doesn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2019.

Why the delay?

The Legislature gave state agencies time to craft policies and hold public hearings before putting the practice into place.

“ODFW will work to write rules that make getting a permit to legitimately salvage a roadstruck deer or elk as simple as possible, but that also discourage poaching,” said Doug Cottam, ODFW Wildlife Division Administrator.

The agencies said salvaging roadkill has been unlawful in the past to discourage people from deliberately hitting an animal with a vehicle in order to take the meet or antlers. Law enforcement has also wanted to prevent poachers from using a crash to cover up a crime.

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