Wyoming Now Has an App That Lets Residents Claim Roadkill

The state passed a law allowing residents to pick up — and presumably eat — animals struck by vehicles last spring.

A deer crossing sign in the American West
Photo: River North Photography / Getty Images

Last April, Wyoming governor Mark Gordon signed a bill into law that allows residents of the state to collect roadkill that they either hit with their own vehicles or find on the side of the road. There are some restrictions: they can't pick up bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, mountain goats, or some migratory birds, and they have to take the entire carcass with them (instead of standing on the shoulder, selecting prime cuts of meat).

"Deer, elk, moose, pronghorn — those will be the species that folks primarily have an interest in," Wyoming Game and Fish Department Chief Game Warden Rick King said last spring.

Wyoming is one of around 30 states that allows its residents to help themselves to roadkill — and to eat the meat, if they're so inclined — but it might be the only place in the U.S. that has a roadkill-based smartphone app. According to the Associated Press, a roadkill feature has been added to the state's Department of Transportation app, and it allows people to claim those carcasses by entering the species, tagging the location, and confirming that the animal was not killed illegally.

The AP reports that the app also allows the, uh, collector to read the rules for retrieving roadkill and to review the state's roadkill-related safety regulations, like reminding them that they can't pick anything up within the state's national parks, and they cannot give any of the meat to charity organizations.

The Department of Transportation and the Game and Fish Department also hope that, by reviewing geotags that show where animals were hit by cars, they'll get a better sense of where vehicle-on-animal collisions are happening, and what species have been struck. According to the Game and Fish Department, Wyoming drivers and big game are involved in around 6,000 incidents every year, and around 85 percent of those accidents are with mule deer. (The agency estimates that around 4 percent of the state's mule deer population are killed by vehicles annually.)

Some Wyoming state legislators had tried for over a decade to pass a roadkill collection bill, but it failed to make it to the governor's desk until last year. "There were some complaints from people who had hit animals or had seen other people hit animals, and they were like, 'Well, heck, it's dead…I don't want the government telling me I can't take something I accidentally hit if the meat is good,'" State Rep.Dan Zwonitzer, who repeatedly sponsored the bill, told The Economist.

One of the reasons the bill met resistance is because some legislators were concerned that drivers would "intentionally strike trophy animals" with their vehicle, or that poachers would falsely claim that they'd hit an animal with their car. "We know that a lot of carcasses won't have a lot of edible portions left on them by the time [people are] getting home and processing them but I think proponents argue that this could provide an opportunity for somebody to take home some wild game and put that to good use and put it in their freezer for consumption," King said. "So if that occurs, I think that's a beneficial product of this legislation."

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