The finished product smells earthy, says Doug Moeller of the Montana DOT, which composts deer, elk, and moose. In fact, he says, ”odor's not been an issue — and we have some houses pretty close to some sites.” Photos: Maryland State Highway Administration

The fear of spreading that particular disease is one reason the Montana DOT isn't permitted to apply compost made from deer, elk, moose, and the occasional antelope along public rights of way. Instead, the agency keeps material at maintenance facilities while working with the state's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department to identify potential uses.

Fear of disease transmission may be overblown, however. There's been only one instance of chronic wasting disease in the decade that the New York State DOT has composted deer, and it was traced to a farm where the animals are raised to sell as meat.

The Maryland State Highway Administration is permitting an incinerator at one composting facility to satisfy state regulators that the rabies pathogen is being killed off, but it may be an unnecessary expense. The rabies virus lives for only a short period of time, and would be killed in the composting process.

“Any animal — bears, whales, and raccoons, for example — can be safely composted,” says Jean Bonhotal of Cornell's Waste Management Institute. “Regulators who are worried about disease transmission should look at the results of our study.”

The institute publishes just about everything you need to learn how to compost animal remains, including how the process works, where to set up a facility, how to lay animals for maximum biodegradation, and why the process works even with frozen carcasses. Go to

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