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HELENA - A pilot project aimed at cutting Helena's urban deer population by 50 animals has ended, and officials are expected to report the results to city commissioners in the coming weeks.

Police officers reached the quota Thursday after killing two mule deer. Officers kill the deer with a bolt gun, which uses a blank cartridge to fire a cylinder into the animal's brain.

Over the course of about six weeks, two police officers have been checking a half-dozen traps set up on private property on the city's southeast side. They killed 18 bucks and 32 does. Thirteen deer escaped the traps, and 35 fawns were released.

"People have strong opinions about the project, as far as whether or not we should be doing this, but I think the police department did an excellent job," City Manager Tim Burton said. "They were humane, they were effective, and all of the meat was well used by Helena Food Share."

The community recently has been divided over whether the deer population represents a problem and, if it does, how to deal with the situation.

Police Chief Troy McGee is expected to report to city commissioners in the coming weeks, when he'll have figures on how many pounds of venison were donated to the food bank.

Commissioners then will decide whether to pursue future projects. If they do, city officials will begin working with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to move forward.

The FWP Commission, which approved the project after rejecting a request to take more than 300 deer, has the final say in any future culling.

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