Every year, more than 1 million large animals are hit and killed by cars on our nation’s roads, in addition to the million or so small animals struck daily. Wildlife and automobiles have the misfortune of frequently crossing paths because, among other reasons, our national highway system is predominantly east-west, while animal migratory paths are north-south.

Each state relies on varying methods for dealing with the cumbersome carnage, and now the Montana state senate has passed a bill that would allow residents to help by salvaging their the meat of deer, elk and moose killed by vehicles.

The measure next goes to Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, for a final vote. It isn’t clear whether he will sign the bill into effect.

Despite the unglamorous nature of the concept — eating roadkill verges on taboo for many — it’s hard to deny the practicality of it. And even though roadkill meat is naturally free-range and untainted by antibiotics, opponents of the bill are concerned about food safety,

"Are highway patrolmen and law enforcement experts in meat inspection?" mused Democratic state Sen. Kendall Van Dyk. "I have not seen anything in the bill ... that indicates to me that the safety parameters are in place to let me know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a safe food source for those in need, or anyone else for that matter."

But state Rep. Bill Lavin, the Republican sponsor of the bill — who sees more than his fair share of splattered wildlife as a Montana Highway Patrolman — noted that the state does not inspect meat acquired by hunting.

"In Montana, we have a lot of commonsense," he said, "it's pretty easy to tell when meat is rotten."

The draft bill also included the reaping of fur-bearing animals and game birds, but they were removed over concerns about poaching. Supporters say allowing big game to rot on the side of the road is a shame.

"It really is a sin to waste a good meat," said state Sen. Larry Jent, a Democrat from Bozeman.

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Montana passes bill to allow salvage of roadkill
The governor's signature is all that remains between car-struck big game and the dinner table.