The Pennsylvania Game Commission confiscated deer brains and other deer parts from a Lititz restaurant earlier this month, according to state inspectors.

The brains, heads, muscle meat and other parts were taken after New China House's operator couldn't provide documentation the meat was from an approved source, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. 

While farm-raised venison may be sold legally, it’s illegal to sell game animals killed by hunters, according to officials.

Game warden Greg Graham said a confidential tip led to the investigation, but he declined to discuss details because the investigation is continuing. A man at the restaurant declined to give his name over the phone Thursday and said he had no comment.

However, the owner told PennLive that he doesn't sell deer meat and that deer bones confiscated were for soup for him and his wife.

The restaurant remains open.

Graham said state law was changed in 1930s in Pennsylvania making it illegal to sell wild game. Most, if not all, states have such a law, he said.

The reason, Graham said, was the commercial exploitation of game in the early 1900s. For instance, canvasback ducks had been killed by the hundreds by hunters who mounted large guns on boats and fired into flocks.

“They’d fire two pounds of shot at one time and literally kill hundreds,” Graham said. “The unregulated commercialization of wildlife led to the extinction of the passenger pigeon and habitat destruction.” 

Once so prolific they blackened the skies, the pigeons were hunted for food and sport. The last passenger pigeon, Martha, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

New China House’s deer violation was one of 18 violations documented on a Dec. 16 inspection, according to the agriculture department's report. 

The deer parts were thrown out, Logan Hall, a department spokesman, said Thursday. Inspectors returned for follow-up inspection the next day and found 14 more deficiencies. 

They included an unidentifiable pig organ on premise, which the operator's wife said was her lunch, according to the inspection report. It was discarded.

Restaurants may reopen when deficiencies are addressed, Hall said.

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