Living in Missoula, everyone knows that encountering wildlife is a given. We often hear about bears making their way onto the University of Montana Campus or mountain lions being spotted in the south hills or rattlesnake neighborhoods. One of the most frequent encounters a Missoulian might have is with the urban deer population. Sadly, sometimes these encounters are because of a car accident.

Say it's 5:30 pm on a Thursday during the winter. You're driving home from work and out from the bushes a deer runs in front of your car and you hit it. If the deer is injured badly, what do you do?

The answer might be more simple than you think, but you maybe have heard misinformation about what to do. I contacted both the City of Missoula and Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Region 2 to find out exactly what a person should do.

Myth: Call Fish, Wildlife and Parks if you hit a deer with your car in city limits

You may have heard this is what you're supposed to do, but that's not the case. As confirmed by Ginny Merriam, Communications Director for the City of Missoula, if a deer has been hit by a car and is injured in the roadway, you're supposed to call 911.

I asked Kyle Miller, the Game Warden Captain for Montan Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 2, why it's not a good idea to call FWP and he explained that the FWP office operates from Monday to Friday 8 am to 5 pm, and that many accidents like this happen after hours. That being said, if a person does call 911, then the closest officer can be sent to help, and that may be a police officer, someone from FWP, or even a sheriff's deputy.

It's also important to note that the public should not euthanize the animal.

“There is a city ordinance that you can’t discharge a firearm, but it’s just not safe,” Miller says.   

Myth: Injured deer can't survive

Sometimes, you might see a deer that just has a broken front leg. In those instances, Miller says to "let them be."

"In those cases, a lot of times, we don’t do anything. With so much to eat--grass and shrubs-- in the city limits, a deer can survive. It may be tough to watch but they can do fine. If they're able to move around and get food and water and move around, we let them be."  

On the other hand, if after observation the animal is not doing well because of an infection or it is suffering, FWP will humanely euthanize the animal.

The public should also never try to rehabilitate an injured wild animal.

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“It’s unlawful to rehabilitate an ungulate because it could spread disease. And once you rehabilitate an animal it won’t release back into the wild,” Miller said. “We have CWD in Montana which is a big concern and we wouldn’t want that to spread.”  

Myth: Fish, Wildlife and Parks will remove a dead deer

Another misconception is about what to do if you find a dead deer. According to the Urban Wildlife page of the City of Missoula website, you can no longer contact Republic Services to come and remove the deer, however, there are other options listed on the site.

There are also instructions on what to do if you'd like to dispose of the deer yourself. For full details, visit the Urban Wildlife page of the City of Missoula website.

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