CONCORD, N.H. — A state-hired sharpshooter equipped with a silencer and night-vision sight killed 90 deer, three-fourths of a herd that was eating its way through a largely residential island.
The animals were killed during the night over a period of three days, beginning Friday, said Richard Patten, chairman of the Long Island Deer Task Force.
"Ninety rounds were fired; 90 animals dropped," Patten said Monday. "It was as humane a thing as you could do. It was one shot and literally the animal dropped in its tracks."
The animals were attracted by corn and apples set out as bait.
The deer were butchered, and thousands of pounds of venison were donated to the New Hampshire Food Bank, which will distribute it to shelters.
The deer population on Long Island, in the town of Moultonboro on Lake Winnipesaukee in east-central New Hampshire, had grown from 49 to an estimated 120 since the state outlawed hunting on the 2-square-mile island in 1970.
State biologists said the deer on the island had eaten all available brush and were starving. The island's roughly 1,000 residents had been forced to fence their gardens and trees.
The state hired professional sharpshooter Tony DeNicola, president of a nonprofit company called White Buffalo Inc., in Hamden, Conn. DeNicola, who has been involved in controlling animal populations elsewhere for nearly a year, did not charge for the job.
Many residents opposed hiring the sharpshooter and had been feeding the deer to prepare them for winter.
"The deer they took were big, fat and healthy," said Bob Grillo, a landowner who founded Winnipesaukee Deer Rescue. He said he and his volunteers had been giving the deer 3,000 pounds of feed a week.
Judy Stokes, a spokeswoman for New Hampshire's Fish and Game Department, disagreed with Grillo's description. She said the animals that were killed, on average, were 27% smaller than other deer in the state, an indication they were underfed.
Stokes said the hunting is over for now, and officials and residents are supposed to meet for discussions on future actions to control the herd.