In 2016, the state of Washington made it legal for people to pick up dead deer and elk on the road and take them home. Roadkill salvage has turned out to be a popular thing to do—and it's coming soon to Oregon.
In Washington state, you have to print out a free permit as soon as you take home the carcass of a deer or elk hit by a vehicle. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has issued nearly 2,000 of those roadkill salvage permits since July of last year.
"It's about time. Way to go. All kinds of encouraging things," was some of the feedback reported by Mick Cope, deputy assistant director for wildlife. Cope said he had not heard a single report of the roadkill salvage permit being used as a loophole for poaching either.
Oregon is getting with the program after the state Legislature earlier this year unanimously legalized roadkill salvage of deer and elk. Taking home pre-tenderized venison remains against the law though until the state's new permit system for this gets up and running later next year.
If you live in Idaho, you can collect not only deer and elk by the roadside, but also game birds, moose, black bear, mountain lion, wolves, turkeys, raccoons, coyotes and hares. Like its neighbors, Idaho requires individuals to complete an online form to report the roadkill salvage.
Running down an animal with the intent to salvage harvest is still illegal. And Washington's roadkill salvage rules also require people to take home the entire carcass. Field dressing beside the highway is not allowed to prevent scavengers from congregating near traffic.
One other caveat is that deer may not be salvaged in three southwest Washington counties—Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum—and eventually the three Oregon counties directly across the Columbia River—Multnomah, Columbia and Clatsop. That is meant to prevent any misunderstandings regarding possession of endangered Columbian white-tailed deer.
According to WDFW, motorists on average strike and kill more than 3,000 deer and elk on state highways each year.
"The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife does not guarantee that salvaged meat is fit for consumption," reads a caution on the state website. "Those who consume salvaged meat do so at their own risk."
The agency goes on to encourage people who wish to eat salvaged deer or elk to use care in handling the game meat and cook it until the juices run clear.