DODGEVILLE – Hunters interested in donating deer harvested in the chronic wasting disease (CWD) Disease Eradication Zone (DEZ) of southern and southwest Wisconsin to food pantries now have that option thanks to five area meat processors.

Hunters can take their DEZ-harvested deer for donation through March 31, 2005 to:

  • Black Earth – Black Earth Meats, 1345 Mill St.

  • Cottage Grove – Stoddard’s Country Grove Meat Market, 205E. Cottage Grove Rd.

  • Juda – Rackow Family Sausage, N1943 Schindler Rd.

  • Lodi – Lodi Sausage & Meats, 150 S. Main St.

  • New Glarus – Hoesly Meats, 219 Industrial Dr.

Hunters wishing to donate their DEZ-harvested, field dressed deer to the DEZ venison food pantry program may take them directly to Black Earth Meats, Hoesly Meats or Lodi Sausage & Meats. Deer bound for this food pantry program need not be pre-registered as these three meat processors will register those deer as part of the CWD testing program.

Hunters who donate DEZ-harvested deer at either Stoddard’s in Cottage Grove or Rackow’s in Juda must first register their deer and have it sampled at one of six DNR staffed registration/collection stations in the DEZ before transporting it out of the CWD DEZ zone.

The six stations are at Heck’s Farm Market, 7266 STH 14, Arena, Eagle Mart Stop-N-Go, 8029 STH 151, Barneveld, Norslein’s Wood Works, 4738 STH 78, Black Earth, Countryside Lanes, 1255 CTH F, Hollandale, STH 80 Boat Landing on the Wisconsin River, Muscoda, and the Lone Rock Unit of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, one mile west of Lone Rock on STH 14.

Hunters need to field dress and bring their deer to the meat processor or DNR registration/collection stations as soon as possible “so we can get a quality tissue sample for CWD testing and provide a quality venison product for the food pantry program,” pointed out Joe Brusca, DNR Regional Air & Waste Leader.

While CWD testing is not regarded as a food safety test, all deer slated for the Deer Donation Program are tested for CWD and only venison that test negative for CWD will be accepted for the Deer Donation Program.

DNR’s goal in the DEZ is to reduce the deer density down to below five deer per square mile. They believe that by dropping the herd down to this low level, it will be possible to eradicate the deadly prion disease from the wild deer herd. But some hunters have been hesitant to shoot more deer than needed by themselves, family and friends.

“We hope that by providing DEZ hunters with the opportunity to donate deer, it will serve as an incentive to keep them out in the woods hunting deer throughout this fall and winter,” explained DNR wildlife biologist Alan Crossley.

CWD is a fatal disease that affects the nervous system of elk and deer. It has never been known to affect any other animal species under natural conditions and has never been shown to cause illness in humans. The disease is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion which concentrate in certain tissues such as brain, spinal cord, lymph nodes and spleen.

Meat processors who will be participating in the venison donation program will use boned-out meat from which fat, connective tissue, and nerve tissue have been removed. The tissues where prions concentrate are not included in processed venison through this butchering method.

The program, which provides venison donated by hunters to public food pantries, is administered by DNR in cooperation with the Food Safety Division of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Department of Health and Family Services.

Flyers providing basic information about CWD and venison will be offered at each participating food pantry to ensure that consumers can make an informed choice regarding accepting venison from this program.