CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming House of Representatives have been working on House Bill 95 which would allow people to collect road killed animals around the state.
The House adopted two amendments to the legislation proposed by the bill’s primary sponsor Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (Laramie County) during their floor session on Thursday.
The first amendment would establish a $40 for people to obtain a certificate of prior authorization that would allow them to collect road killed animals they come across along roadways in Wyoming.
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Zwonitzer said this amendment grew out of a suggestion presented to him by the Wyoming Wildlife Federation to have the collection of road kill support wildlife crossing projects in the state which aim to reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions.
“Wouldn’t it be a really good idea if we could throw some money to the wildlife crossings effort?” Zwonitzer said.
Under the amendment half of the $40 fee would go to the Wildlife Conservation Account. The other half would go to the Wyoming Game and Fish Fund to offset costs they may incur in administering the road kill harvesting program.
House Majority Floor Leader Albert Sommers (Sublette) said that wildlife crossing projects are a big deal, but he had concerns about imposing fees on poor people who may want to harvest road kill for food.
“What about the person that is really trying to do this because they need the food to feed a family?” he asked. “I’ve hit lots of these in my life and there is some I probably could have salvaged and some I probably couldn’t have salvaged. The question is what about those poor families? I don’t really want to see them charged.”
The House adopted Zwonitzer’s amendment to implement the $40 fees. Those fees would apply to the prior authorization certificates. The legislation proposes multiple ways in which people could legally harvest road kill:
- a certificate of prior authorization (for the $40 fee) from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (available to anyone who “commits to putting road killed wildlife carcasses to a beneficial use”)
- a scientific or educational license for a specific species issued in line with state statutes (this type of collection permit is allowed under existing law)
- a donation certificate or interstate game tag issued by Game and Fish (which would allow people to harvest road kill they had recently hit or recently witnessed hit by another vehicle)
The House adopted another amendment proposed by Zwonitzer which would clean up the language of the bill. For example, the amendment clarifies that only wildlife which are unintentionally hit by motor vehicles could be harvested as road kill.
“We certainly don’t want anybody trying to intentionally drive in an hit an animal,” Zwonitzer said.
The other aspect of the amendment clarifies that the entire carcass, including the entrails must be collected under the road kill harvesting rules: “We really mean everything, not just parts,” Zwonitzer said.
Rep. Jamie Flitner (Big Horn, Park) also proposed an amendment to the legislation. Flitner, who is chair of the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife & Cultural Resources, said that law enforcement and WYDOT have expressed concern about the risk of people stopping along the side of the road to harvest road kill.
“In an age where we could get ten snow plows hit by distracted drivers, I think it would be safe to say that if you were stopped along the side of the road picking up game, your chances of getting hit would be pretty high,” she said, referring to WYDOT’s report that 10 plows were hit between Feb. 11-16 this winter.
Flitner’s amendment proposed allowing the state transportation commission to designate roads where road kill harvesting would not be allowed.
That might include narrow highways or highways with no shoulder.
Rep. Donald Burkhart, Jr. (Carbon) said he supported the concept.
“I can think of a number of roads where frankly I would not stop even for a flat tire,” he said. “There is just not enough room. They are narrow. There are blind corners.”
Rep. Sue Wilson argued that prohibiting road kill harvesting on specific road sections would make the rules too complication.
“At my age I have never in my life ever hit a deer, elk or antelope,” she said. I’m just such a clever avoider, I guess. If I did and wanted the meat, unless I have a map of all the roads marked in my car, I will just assume that I might be on the wrong part of the road and avoid picking it up.”
Rep. Art Washut (Natrona) said he has concerns that designating specific sections of roads where road kill harvesting is prohibited could lead to the need to put up signage and the costs associated with that.
“I think there is some common sense that comes into play here,” he said. “Maybe we could just trust people where they would only pick up animals where they think it is safe to do so.”
The House rejected the aspect of Flitner’s amendment which would allow specific highway sections where road kill harvesting would be prohibited.
Since the amendment proposed other changes to the legislation, Zwonitzer moved to divide Flitner’s amendment so that the House could consider the changes separately.
The amendment would eliminate the ability for people to harvest road kill immediately after they hit wildlife or observe it struck by another vehicle, according to Zwonitzer.
He said that this amendment would lead to a situation road kill harvesting in Wyoming would be “much more professionalized” since people would need to be referred to someone with a prior authorization permit in order to harvest the road kill.
Flitner said she proposed this change due to concerns about placing too many demands on Game and Fish personnel who are already strained under reduced budgets.
“This would eliminate the factor where they would have to come out in the evening time to see if an animal had been hit,” she said.
Zwonitzer spoke against the amendment, though he said he understood the intent.
“I just think it changes it and makes it too strict in this case,” he said.
The House defeated this aspect of Flitner’s amendment as well before passing the bill on second reading. The legislation would need to pass the House on third reading before it would move to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 95 would not allow for the collection of “bighorn sheep, gray wolves within any area of the state where gray wolves are classified as trophy game animals, grizzly bears, mountain goats, wildlife species covered under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, federal threatened or endangered species or those species whose possession is prohibited by federal or state statute or regulation.”
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department says that the state averages about 6,000 collisions between vehicles and big game each year, that 15% of all crashes in the state are crashes involving wildlife and estimate that these collisions result in $20-30 million in wildlife costs and $24-29 million in personal injury costs.
The department is working on strategies to reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions through the Big Game Animal Migration initiative (including constructing overpasses and underpasses, improving fencing, mowing along the side of the road and adding signage).