Seventy-five Amherst residents banded together Wednesday evening and formed an organization to stop the police shooting of deer in northern Amherst.
Amherst Citizens Against Violent Control of Deer was born during a meeting set up in the Clearfield Library by Marsha McCulloch, an Amherst nurse.
"I've felt strongly about this issue for a long time," she explained, "but suddenly it has crept up on us with this bait-and-shoot program -- which is better called ambush-and-slaughter."
One strong supporter of the new group, former Amherst Supervisor Jack Sharpe, said the Amherst Police Department recently spent $1,200 to buy two hunting rifles and has budgeted more than $1,500 to pay off-duty officers to bait and shoot deer.
Sharpe said the state Department of Environmental Conservation has liberalized its issuance of nuisance permits for property owners to shoot deer. About 50 were issued in 1992 and 75 in 1993, but then they shot past 200 in 1994, he said.
Ms. McCulloch said she was told by James Snyder, a DEC biologist, that the goal is to kill 300 deer this spring.
"The DEC's main revenue comes from hunting permits," she said, "and they'd like to see bow hunting in Amherst. We've got to pressure the Town Board to rescind the bait-and-shoot program and find more humane ways to handle the deer population."
Sharpe said the DEC's recent aerial survey showed the town's deer population down by 40 percent, but it discarded the results because it had flown over only the northern one-third of Amherst.
"Well, that's the only place there's deer," Sharpe said. "There aren't any deer in Snyder or Eggertsville."
Williamsville lawyer Michael Purvis said a suit to stop the shooting is being prepared by attorney Michael Taheri, who has one plaintiff but would welcome other plaintiffs as well as information about shooting locations.
"This is a safety issue over gunfire in residential neighborhoods," Purvis said. "If anyone has made a videotape of officers shooting deer or hunting them with rifles, this would be helpful."
Amherst Police Capt. Thomas Maier addressed the group and left when his statements came under fire.
"It's certainly not true that our officers were looking for this assignment," Maier said. "It was chosen as the best option for serious public-safety problems, because of the car-deer accidents."
Maier said "road kills" of deer totaled about 490 last year, compared with about 100 in 1989.