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The city's bait-and-shoot program began this week after months of debate over whether the program is humane, members of the Common Council learned Wednesday.

Within the past few days, police officers began shooting deer from elevated platforms in wooded areas in the city, mostly around Deerwood Golf Course.

The officers are using high-powered rifles to kill the deer, which the state Department of Environmental Conservation said are too abundant in the city.

Animal rights activists have protested the program, saying it is unnecessary and cruel.

Mayor David J. Burgio said the program, which is expected to last until March, has proceeded smoothly.

Also Wednesday, the Council unanimously approved changes to access rules between the city and school district, which will allow police officers to go onto school district property during the bait-and-shoot program.

City Attorney Henry Wojtaszek said the officers will probably not shoot deer on school property but walk across the property to gain access to heavily wooded areas in the city.

DEC rules stipulate that the shooting must occur on city property, at least 500 yards from any private property, unless the owners of that property give their consent.

Last month, the Council approved the bait-and-shoot program by a 4-1 vote, with Alderwoman Catherine Schwandt opposing the program.

The program targets only female deer without antlers, in the hopes of reducing the overall deer population over two or three years.

The program -- similar to one used in Amherst -- was implemented after a yearlong study by a commission created by the Council.

At a protest outside City Hall earlier this month, representatives from several area animal rights groups charged that he city failed to fully research other options, such as animal contraceptives.

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