A Long Island food bank has received about 4,500 pounds of venison from the deer cull being conducted by federal sharpshooters on the East End, the nonprofit said Tuesday.
Island Harvest has received three shipments of deer meat, each between 1,300 and 1,500 pounds, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Don Miller, a spokesman for the food bank.
"It's a welcome addition to help families on Long Island who are struggling with hunger," Miller said. "There are pros and cons on both sides of the deer cull. We won't get into that."
The meat was delivered ground, in 1-pound packages, and clearly labeled as venison, Miller said.
Opponents of the cull welcomed the donations, but said that was not enough to justify what they call an extreme measure to control the deer population.
"I don't think that's a rationale for killing the deer, the way they've been killing them," said Wendy Chamberlin, a Bridgehampton resident and president of the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island.
The meat has been distributed by Island Harvest to 570 community-based organizations in Nassau and Suffolk, including food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency feeding programs, such as women's shelters, Miller said.
The deer were processed upstate at a USDA-inspected facility, said Carol Bannerman, a spokeswoman for the federal agency.
Chamberlin and some hunters opposed to the cull have suggested that the deer would be too expensive and difficult to process, and carcasses would be buried or dumped. Bannerman said deer "are not disposed of in Dumpsters, nor are pelts or carcasses."
The cull is scheduled to continue through mid-month and stop before does give birth to fawns, Bannerman said. The cull was initiated by the Long Island Farm Bureau, which was concerned about crop damage from deer and other issues, including car crashes.
The USDA has not disclosed how many deer it has shot. Sharpshooters have used rifles with silencers, shooting from the back of trucks and from tree stands set up over bait. But hunters said 30 to 35 pounds of meat can be obtained from one of the does, which are targeted as the most effective means of population control.