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N.Y. town calls on SWAT team to cull deer

The town of North Tonawanda, New York revived a bait-and-shoot program last month to deal with what local leaders call a significant deer overpopulation. According to the Niagara Gazette, the cull will be carried out by four members of the city police department’s SWAT team between March and October.

It's unclear whether the SWAT hunters will dress like this.

It’s unclear whether the SWAT hunters will dress like this.

“We’re not starting anything radical,” Third Ward Alderman Zadzilka told the Gazette. “We’re resuming what we did in the past. We were hearing a lot more complaints from residents in the last two years about property damage. That’s what precipitated bringing this back.”

The town first started the sharpshooting program in 2004 when experts from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) counted over 1,000 deer within the city boundaries. With DEC approval, the North Tonawanda police department maintained a deer management program until 2008. In that time frame, police sharpshooters killed about 241 deer.

“This program is not only necessary to reduce the current deer population and protect our residents and their property, but to manage that population going forward,” Mayor Robert Ortt told The Sun. “We are simply restarting that program. Working together with the DEC, I am confident that this program will be done in a professional and respectful manner.”

The DEC is unsure how many deer live within North Tonawanda limits today, but residents say they are concerned that the animals can become a major traffic hazard. In the past, the town considered using birth control to sterilize the deer, although that plan proved to be too expensive. Hunters, however, say that a better alternative to control deer numbers would be opening an urban hunting season. Many cities across the nation are turning to bowhunters to solve their deer problem, especially in urban areas where wildlife and automobiles can make for a hazardous mix.

City officials say the sharpshooting program has historically been a success.

“When the program was set up it was never meant to go dormant. I think it was well-received last time, it was well run and there weren’t any complaints,” said Police Chief William Hall.

Any deer meat harvested by the program will be sent to a local food bank.


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