CHEYENNE -- Whether it's fresh or in rigor mortis, roadkill may soon be legal take-out for Wyomingites.
The state Senate gave early approval Thursday to legislation that would authorize the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to issue permits for ridding the road of wildlife that falls victim to automobiles. House Bill 144 now awaits the second of potentially three Senate votes. It already passed the House.
The bill allows permit holders to use the carcasses for whatever they desire: furs, racks, teeth or food.
“It’s first come, first serve,” said Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, the bill’s sponsor.
Bighorn sheep and any federally protected animals can't be taken off the road, nor can any carcass in Yellowstone or Grand Teton national parks.
Jonathan Root is a legislative aide to Zwonitzer. Root pushed Zwonitzer to move the bill because he hates to see dead deer and antelope rot away on the side of the state’s roads and highways.
“I am a hunter who uses the motto 'waste not, want not,'” he said.
At least 14 states have laws that allow for the collection of roadkill. The Alaska Moose Federation delivers carcasses to more than 600 food banks, churches and families every year.
Root teamed with Cody High School’s Youth for Justice to get the bill — and the roadkill — off the ground.
Youth for Justice lobbied for the bill as a way to help feed the less fortunate.
The likelihood of an edible roadside carcass is slim, Zwonitzer said.
“But every now and again a moose or something may come along and it may hit them in the right spot in the head,” he said.
The bill would be more of a highway cleanup initiative, he said. Like collecting tin cans, said Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan.
Some lawmakers said citizens could use the deceased animals to feed their pets.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation and Game and Fish are currently responsible for removing the carcasses. In the northern part of the state, dead deer and antelope are common sights.
“If they didn’t pick them up every day, it would look like Gettysburg,” Burns said.
There is no language in the bill that specifies how many carcasses a permit holder can take per year.
“Hunting by vehicle” was the worry of Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta.
People could track a bison and wait until it gets on the road, get in their truck and try to run it over, he said.
“That’s a $2,500 tag,” he said, in reference to the cost of legally hunting a bison.
Game and Fish officials have encountered situations in which drivers tried to take big game with their cars instead of guns. Department officials have been able to detect whether the crashes have malicious intent, said Scott Talbott, agency director.
“Unless you’re a complete fool, it’s not worth the damage to your vehicle,” Burns said.
Any legislation has the opportunity for abuse, Root said.