Counting deer is a little more difficult than counting sheep -- just ask the several dozen volunteers who tramped through the Great Baehre Swamp Sunday.
You can get rid of that mental image of a guy sitting in a lawn chair in the woods, six-pack by his side listening to the Bills game on the radio while counting deer as they happen to lope by.
The real deer counters Sunday were 33 in number, split into two groups. One lined up on one side of a section of the Great Baehre Swamp, while the other half went to the other side and walked toward the first line, flushing the deer as they walked.
The first line counted the number of deer that passed.
That scenario was repeated four times at the swamp off Hopkins Road Sunday as volunteers counted several dozen deer within the one square mile of the swamp.
"It was a lot of walking," said S. Bruce Kohrn, project supervisor.
The Humane Society of the United States has contracted with Kohrn's firm, SBK Environmental Research, to help in research on a contraceptive vaccine to help control deer population nationwide. To determine the effectiveness of the contraceptive, the group first has to determine how many deer are in the area, and then monitor the population.
"Our goal is to see if this experimental vaccine can be used to control a free roaming deer population like that in Amherst," Kohrn said.
Volunteers will count the number of deer in a control group located on the University at Buffalo North Campus Oct. 19. Kohrn said those interested in volunteering can call 875-7364. The two populations will be counted again in the winter.
"We would like more volunteers," he said.
As part of the five-year project, doe in the Great Baehre Swamp will be tranquilized in February and March and injected with the contraceptive, Kohrn said. At the same time, they will be fitted with bright yellow ear tags with numbers to help researchers keep track of them. Some also are to be fitted with radio collars transmitting a homing signal as another means of tracking.
Kohrn said the group will be recruiting a "deer spotters network" to help monitor where the deer go. It is thought the deer population of the swamp swells in the winter with deer looking for food, while in the summer the deer are able to stray from the swamp and still survive.
"We don't really know where they go," Kohrn said, adding the census will yield helpful information.