SALEM, Ore. -- Oregonians may soon be able to salvage the meat from roadkill deer and elk under a bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) and Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Cove).
Senate Bill 372 would allow the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife to issue salvage permits for deer and elk that are accidentally killed in a vehicle collision. The bill passed the Senate on April 6 by a vote of 29-0.
Approximately 20 other states have a similar law on the books, including neighboring Washington and Idaho. Washington enacted its roadkill salvage program on July 1, 2016, issuing 1,100 permits over the first six months, according to Hansell.
That's 1,100 animals that were salvaged in one degree or another, Hansell said, rather than simply being left to rot on the side of the road.
"Those accidents are very unfortunate," he said. "It seemed there's just got to be a better way to take care of that."
The bill applies only to deer and elk, and does contain a few provisions to discourage poaching. For example, the animal cannot be hit and killed off road, and salvage is allowed only for human consumption of meat. Antlers must be turned over to ODFW.
One potential pitfall revolves around a state law that allows people to kill crippled or helpless wildlife "when the killing is done for humane purposes." SB 372 would not grant salvage permits under that rule, unless the person asking for a permit was the driver who hit and crippled the animal first in a vehicle collision.
ODFW staff -- including Shannon Hurn, deputy director for fish and wildlife programs, and Doug Cottam, wildlife division administrator -- testified on the bill before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, expressing concern that people might shoot a deer or elk first and then strike it with their vehicle, in order to pass it off as a humane killing. They pointed out there are five roadkill poaching cases ongoing in Washington since the program was established.
Hansell said there is no way to make the bill 100 percent poacher-proof, and the good of the program outweighs the potential for poaching.
"Providing the ability to salvage the meat would be able to add just a little bit of a positive result to a negative experience," he said.
If passed, SB 372 would make salvage permits available no later than Jan. 1, 2019. The bill would sunset on Jan. 1, 2024.
Senate Bill 373
Another bill sponsored by Hansell and Barreto that attempts to curtail urban deer populations is also moving forward in the Legislature.
Senate Bill 373 would create a pilot program where cities could petition ODFW to euthanize deer "that constitute a public nuisance" within city limits.
The program would be voluntary, Hansell said. First, a city would need to pass an ordinance declaring a nuisance urban deer population. The city would also need to have local laws that prohibit feeding or luring wildlife into town.
"If the deer are there because they're getting a handout, obviously they're going to stay there," he said.
The city would foot the bill to kill the animals, while retaining the antlers and hides. The meat would go to the Oregon Food Bank. The program would specifically prohibit killing deer by dart or lethal injection.
The program, which would be crafted by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, must also contain provisions that the number of deer that are killed "do not exceed the number necessary to be taken to reduce the deer population to a level that no longer constitutes a public nuisance."
Hansell said the idea started with Dennis Sands, the mayor of Joseph, who pointed out the high number of deer in the city. And though Joseph residents ultimately rejected the proposal, Hansell said the League of Oregon Cities has indicated the program could be used by other communities statewide.
"(The League of Oregon Cities) was very clear, this is a bill they support," Hansell said. "I think it's a win-win, if this is something the cities want to pursue. If they do not, then they don't have to."
SB 373 also passed the Senate on April 6 by a vote 28-1 vote, and has a sunset date of Jan. 1, 2029. Sen. Fred Girod (R-Stayton) was the only nay. Sen. Winters was excused.
Both bills are now in the House for consideration.