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The state Department of Environmental Conservation fully supports a proposed deer immunocontraception project in Amherst, James R. Snider, senior wildlife biologist, told the Amherst Town Board on Monday.

Snider reviewed permits and planning required before the project can begin late next summer and said: "There is no doubt in my mind it's going to be an approvable project at some point in time."

The Town Board met with Snider in preparation for deciding whether to accept the town's selection by the Humane Society of the United States as one of the nation's first test sites for administering a contraceptive vaccine to free-roaming deer.

Snider said the Humane Society research eventually will influence deer management on a state and national scale.

In Amherst, "If it works, we'll document that; if it doesn't work, we'll document that," the DEC official told the board at its afternoon work session.

The project is important locally because "it may determine this town's course for deer management," Snider said.

A $20,000 donation by Amherst businessman Ronald Benderson would more than cover the first year of the recommended five-year project.

"This five-year project will contribute to national data on how to control free-roaming deer populations," Council Member Peggy Santillo said.

Research would start late next August with the vaccination of female deer in the Great Baehre Swamp, a wooded wetland of several hundred acres ringed by residential neighborhoods in the town's geographic mid-section.

Great Baehre has about 30 deer in summer and 80 to 100 in winter.

"You're probably dealing with the best-fed deer population in town, with the people feeding them corn now and their best shrubs in winter," Snider said.

The results in Great Baehre will determine if the project eventually expands to other parts of town, where deer-car accidents are reported on the rise again.

"If it works there, we'll probably say let's go ahead in the rest of the town," Snider said.

But Snider added that he hopes the research project does not lead the Town Board to halt bait-and-shoot and nuisance-permit hunting in areas outside Great Baehre, especially on farm and forest land in north Amherst.

"It will take a combination of things" to keep the deer population "at a tolerable level for the time being," Snider told the board.

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