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Food pantries in about 30 counties signed up to take donated deer

September 19, 2002  Associated Press.
Food pantries in about 30 counties have signed up to participate in a deer donation program, despite the discovery of a fatal brain disease in the herd, a wildlife official said Thursday.

Most of the counties are in northern Wisconsin, far from Dane and Iowa counties where chronic wasting disease was first discovered in February, said Greg Matthews, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources. Southern counties that signed up include Crawford, Dodge, Grant and Richland, he said.

In May, Milwaukee's Hunger Task Force decided not to accept donated venison because of concerns about the deadly disease.

Experts say there is no scientific evidence the disease can infect people, but the World Health Organization advises people not to eat any part of a deer with evidence of the disease.

Hunters donated 4,000 deer last year to programs in 47 counties that feed the needy and hungry, using a DNR program that pays to process the venison.

"There seems to be a lot of interest in hunters who want to hunt to take an extra deer, but they want to have an extra outlet for it," said Laurie Fike, the DNR's coordinator of the donation program.

Following the 2000 deer hunting season, 7,765 deer were donated and processed into 350,000 pounds of ground venison distributed to more than 200 food pantries across the state, Fike said.

Chronic wasting disease creates sponge-like holes in a deer's brain, causing it to grow thin, act abnormal and die. It has no cure. The discovery of the disease near Mount Horeb marked the first time the ailment was found east of the Mississippi River.

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