How to best dispose of a big game carcass after the meat is in the freezer is a question all hunters face. The answer is simple enough but the regulations and reasons behind it are not understood by many hunters and that can lead to violations and fines.
"All carcass parts remaining after processing a game animal should be disposed of in a regulated landfill or at a transfer station," said Ron Aasheim, chief of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ Communication and Education Bureau. In many communities fur buyers and hide tanners will purchase deer and elk hides.
Montana State Law, applicable on all state-owned and managed sites, prohibits leaving dead animals or refuse on public property, including all state-owned and managed lands which would include FWP managed fishing access sites and wildlife management areas.
These laws may surprise some hunters, especially those for whom dumping big game carcasses in the woods has been was standard practice.
"It is not only illegal to dump big game carcasses, it is a bad idea for health and sanitation-related reasons," Aasheim said. "Even on private land there are restrictions that apply to the handling of animal carcasses."
For example, human health-related state laws prohibit the placing of animal carcasses in any Montana lake, river, creek, pond or reservoir.
Another serious issue is disposing of the uneatable portions of a harvested carcass in a location away from where it was harvested.
"This practice could facilitate the transmission of as yet undetected or even unidentified wildlife diseases from one area of the state to another," Aasheim said.
Laws that apply to the disposal of big game carcasses can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations. These laws include those that apply to the management of refuse and debris on U.S. Forest Service lands and other related issues.
U.S. Forest Service enforcement sources say forest rules on dumping and proper storage and disposal of potential bear attractants—which a big game carcass is—are also posted at most ranger offices.
Hunters who go out of state are reminded that it is illegal to bring heads and spinal cords from harvested game animals back into Montana from any state or Canadian province where Chronic Wasting Disease is present in either wild animals or game farm animals. Skull caps and antlers with no tissue remaining may be transported back to Montana.
For more information on sanitation laws and other rules in effect on state and federal lands, please check the websites of the land management agencies responsible for the lands you plan to hunt.