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Wyoming Senate pass road kill harvesting bill but remove ‘prior authorization’ permit

(Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Senate passed House Bill 95 on a third reading vote of 19-11 on Tuesday, a bill which would allow people to harvest road killed animals.

But before the Senate passed the legislation, they removed a substantial provision of the bill which would allow people to harvest road kill they come across along Wyoming roadways if they have a “certificate of prior authorization” from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Sen. Bill Landen (Natrona County) said that giving people “prior authorization” to harvest road kill gave him some “heartburn.” He explained that he was concerned that people might obtain such a certificate and use it as an excuse to intentionally go out and hit animals with their vehicles and harvest them.

Landen offered an amendment that would remove the “certificate of authorization” for people to harvest road kill. This was a provision that the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (Laramie County), has explained was aimed to give people such as taxidermists or scout troops the ability to harvest road killed carcasses they come across and put animal parts to use.

The amendment adopted in the Senate on third reading would allow people to harvest road killed animal carcasses by contacting Game and Fish after they hit an animal or see one hit to obtain a “donation certificate.”

Senate Majority Floor Leader Ogden Driskell (Crook, Campbell, Weston) said he opposed the amendment removing the “certificate of prior authorization.”

“I don’t think it is going to be a problem and if it is we can come back and fix it,” Driskell said. “I think we’re going for a stretch for people driving the roads looking for something to kill.”

Landen said he thinks the bill could have some ramifications that will need to be addressed if road kill harvesting is allowed.

“I think a lot of my concern rests with the wardens out there. We obviously don’t have enough of them,” he said, noting that he thinks game wardens will get a lot of calls stemming from the proposed legislation.

Landen argued that the legislature could begin without allowing “prior authorization” to harvest road killed animal carcasses and could potentially create such permits in the future after seeing how the legislation works in practice without them.

After adopting the amendment, the Senate passed House Bill 95 on the following third reading vote of 19-11:

  • Ayes: BALDWIN, BITEMAN, BOUCHARD, DOCKSTADER, DRISKILL, ELLIS, FRENCH, GIERAU, HICKS, HUTCHINGS, JAMES, KINSKEY, KOLB, MCKEOWN, PAPPAS, ROTHFUSS, SALAZAR, SCHULER, STEINMETZ
  • Nays: ANDERSON, BONER, CASE, COOPER, FURPHY, KOST, LANDEN, NETHERCOTT, PERKINS, SCOTT, WASSERBURGER

Because the Senate have adopted changes to the legislation, the House would need to vote on whether to concur with the changes before it could move to the governor’s desk for consideration.

Before passing the third reading amendment, the Senate adopted amendments on prior readings to remove $40 fees for the proposed “certificates of prior authorization.”

The Senate adopted another amendment on Monday which would prohibit the donation of road killed big game meat to non-profit organizations, in line with existing statute.

The original draft legislation was modified before it got to the Senate while still in the House, as explained in this article. Those amendments included adding the $40 fee for people to obtain authorization to collect road killed animals they come across along roadways in Wyoming.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (Laramie County) said during the House’s debate of the bill that 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.”

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 legislation would not change the ability for road killed harvesting to be conducted for scientific purposes as is allowed under permits which are legal under existing law.

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).

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