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The last time hunters were allowed to shoot deer on Navy Island, seven deer dived into the Niagara River in terror, and one was almost swept downstream over the Horseshoe Falls.

About 40 animal-rights activists Sunday recalled that 1990 incident and similar stories at a rally against next week's hunt on the island.

"We feel the hunting on the island is not a good thing," said Kristin Beach of Niagara Action for Animals. "It just causes the deer to panic because they're on an island."

The rally, complete with signs and a petition, was held Sunday afternoon in Cummington Square in Chippawa, Ont. Chippawa is just across the Niagara River from Navy Island, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources controls hunting on the island.

The ministry allows hunting only when the deer population grows too large for the mile-long island. The ministry estimates the island now has 100 deer and many would die lingering, painful deaths from starvation if hunting were not allowed.

The hunting will be limited to 72 hunters from next Monday through Nov. 22. Only four hunters per day will be allowed on the island.

In 1990, all seven deer that fled the island eventually made their way to shore, but one injured doe was destroyed by the Humane Society of Niagara Falls, Ont., after it was found lying in a yard near the river.

Deer are good swimmers and swim to the island from Ontario or Grand Island, experts say. But when deer are fleeing from hunters,, animal activists said, the animals don't have time to pick the best place to jump into the water.

"Navy Island seems to be a place where they should be safe," said Randy Atlas of Animal Rights Advocates of Western New York.

About 10 Western New Yorkers joined in the protest Sunday.

"In reality there's a natural system. There are die-offs; it's nature's way of controlling the population," Atlas said.

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