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Idaho’s roadkill salvage law seen as delicious success

A whitetail deer pauses while crossing State Highway 11 near Pierce before safely making it across. A 2012 law lets people salvage less fortunate animals. (Barry Kough / Lewiston Tribune)
A whitetail deer pauses while crossing State Highway 11 near Pierce before safely making it across. A 2012 law lets people salvage less fortunate animals. (Barry Kough / Lewiston Tribune)
Eric Barker Lewiston Tribune

You may hear little of it, but Idaho’s nearly 4-year-old law that allows people to salvage roadkill is surprisingly popular.

According to an online database maintained by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, more than 4,800 animals have been salvaged from the state’s roadways since the law took effect. That includes 1,996 whitetail deer, 1,405 mule deer, 798 elk and 308 moose.

Salvaging roadkill is most popular in the Panhandle region, where 1,803 animals have been recovered. The Southwest region comes in second with 634 salvages, the Clearwater region is third at 521, followed by the Magic Valley with 480, upper Snake 478, Southeast 447 and the Salmon Region with 356.

Washington law still prohibits picking up road-killed game animals without special permits.

“There’s lots of folks taking advantage of it all across the state in all of the regions on all of the highways,” said Gregg Servheen of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Boise. “We have like 31,000 roadkill records (in the database). Of those, maybe we have 15 percent that are salvaged.”

But that doesn’t mean 15 percent of animals killed on highways are salvaged. The database is an incomplete record of road-killed animals that dates back decades. Servheen said it doesn’t begin to represent the true toll highways and roads take on wildlife.

The database is maintained by employees of the Idaho Transportation Department and Idaho Department of Fish and Game who try to keep track of roadkill they remove. Since 2012, it includes information from those who salvage roadkill.

According to the roadkill salvage law, people who pick up animals must submit a report within 24 hours and receive a salvage permit within 72 hours.

The simplest way to do that is to visit the Roadkill/Wildlife Salvage Report page at

Those who report salvages by visiting the website and filling out a form can print a salvage permit. No other action is required. People can also report roadkill without salvaging by visiting the website.

Those who report by phone are mailed a permit.

People who salvage can take as little or as much of the animals as they wish. For example, they can take just the antlers. Or they can take just the backstraps.

If hunters were to do that with a deer or elk they shot, they would face prosecution for wasting a game animal.

But roadkill is different.

“It’s not a question of waste,” Servheen said. “It’s not a legal take, it was an accident take via collision.”

A list of animals that are legal to salvage also is available Idaho Fish and Game’s roadkill webpage.

Mark Carson, conservation supervisor for the Clearwater region at Lewiston, said there was some worry among conservation officers when the law first hit the books.

“They were concerned guys were going to be covering illegal critters and say it’s roadkill. That may be occurring some places, but it’s certainly not widespread,” he said. “It puts thousands of pounds of game meat back on the table instead of on the side of the road, which is a really good thing.”

The reports are viewable by anybody who visits the website, although names are not displayed. Some reporters leave scant information. Others provide details. For example, consider this report from Jan. 14 regarding a whitetail deer hit by a car on Highway 54 near Farragut State Park:

“Normal whitetail deer color, young of the year, was still alive when first seen. I went home to get a hammer to kill it, but deer was dead when I returned. Deer had 2 broken legs and a broken hip.”

Or this snippet from a Feb. 14 report of a salvaged elk on U.S. Highway 26 near Ririe in the upper Snake region: “3 dead someone salvaged 1 I salvaged 1 the other was pretty much toast.”

Servheen said the salvage rule is also helping biologists track where animal/vehicle collisions are happening and in places where it is frequent to explore possible solutions.

Wildlife underpasses have been constructed outside of Boise, near Silverwood north of Coeur d’Alene and north of Copeland in the Panhandle to try to protect both wildlife and drivers. North of Moscow, a moose alert sign flashes when an animal is sensed crossing U.S. Highway 95.

“We have made some tentative work toward trying to address the problem, but we have a long way to go to help driver safety and to keep our wildlife and drivers safe,” Servheen said.

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