The chief of the city's Animal Control Squad is defending the use of .22-caliber short bullets to exterminate pigeons after a hunter protested that the shots might go astray.
Frank Poincelot, head wildlife officer, agreed Friday that the bullets could travel a mile but, he said, that hasn't happened because the city's exterminators have always hit their targets. He expressed confidence in his shooters after John Border, a Cheektowaga resident who describes himself as an avid hunter, challenged the choice of ammunition.
"A .22-caliber rifle bullet will pass clean through a bird," Border said. "These bullets have a range of one mile. Where are those bullets going?"
The discussion was prompted by an account in Friday's Buffalo News of the recently expanded Animal Control Squad and the measures it uses in answering 2,000 complaints a year, including pesky pigeons.
"We haven't had any problems," Poincelot said. "A .22-caliber bullet can travel a mile if you just fire it straight. We have to be exceptionally accurate. When we take a shot, it has to be with an exceptionally clear background."
Poincelot has been in animal control for 30 years, and Border has hunted for 40. Border said everyone misses occasionally.
"All it takes is one errant shot that drops out of the sky," Borders said. "You wouldn't want to be driving down the highway and have that hit your car roof."
Abe Deffenbaugh, a spokesman for Remington Arms Co. based in Madison, N.C., said a .22 caliber short has the width and length of a small fingernail and, while it can travel a mile, it loses much of its kinetic energy in the process and would hit only with the impact of a piece of hail.
"If it's used with proper safety measures in place, such as a solid backstop and clear path of travel, there is no reason not to use a .22-caliber bullet," he said. "There are probably better ways to do it."
Poincelot said that with only three good rifles for eight officers, pigeon shooting is limited. The squad relies more on trapping or putting out poisoned feed, he said. He said he prefers trapping, followed by euthanasia with carbon dioxide. "You feed the pigeons regular food for a few days to get them used to it," he said. "Then you put the food in the trap."